Reykjavik mayor: better to care for foreign visitors than shoot them

The mayor of Reykjavik, Jon Gnarr has declared that Iceland should take more care to rehabilitate visitors from overseas than to shoot them. This, even though the visitors in question are the biggest and most dangerous land predators anywhere: hungry and dangerous polar bears stranded many hundreds of kilometres from home.

Over the coming days or weeks, an international fund-raising effort will begin to collect money for the construction of a polar bear rehabilitation facility at Reykjavik Family Zoo.

Jon Gnarr’s Best Party — made up of artists, comedians and musicians — was elected to run Reykjavik City after voters used last year’s election to vent their frustration at the traditional parties. Gnarr was elected with several unusual promises, including free towels for every swimming pool guest, open and honest corruption, a drug-free parliament by 2020, and a polar bear for the zoo.

While spending a lot of money buying or capturing a polar bear was not everybody’s idea of humane or well-targeted city spending, it remains true that hungry stranded polar bears wash up in Iceland on average once every two years since the settlement age. These bears are usually killed, as they have no way of surviving in Iceland (where there is usually no sea ice, upon which the bears depend) without eating humans, pets or farm animals. However, as the polar bear is now internationally classified as vulnerable, it has become the unofficial international symbol of climate change and Arctic conservation and has become steadily less easy to justify shooting. That is where Jon Gnarr’s new, improved zoo idea comes in.

Next time a polar bear washes up in Iceland, it is hoped a rehabilitation facility will be awaiting him/her in Reykjavik: the public and mayor will get their polar bear, no farmers or sheep will get eaten, the zoo will sell thousands of extra tickets, the bear will get shipped back home healthy; making everyone, in theory, a winner!

Gnarr met with zoo representatives yesterday to discuss the issue.

The international fund-raising effort is going to be internet-based, allowing polar bear lovers all over the world to contribute to the rehabilitation project. Polar bears arriving in Iceland are often (although not always) very weak and starving hungry after their long, accidental trip over the Denmark Strait from Greenland.

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