Wildlife refuge

The nature here is absolutely wild and beautiful, but at the same time very fragile. So, all traveling and other activities strictly comply with nature's terms – as absolutely no damage must be done to the environment. All visitors must therefore demonstrate the utmost care while visiting Svalbard.

Excluding humans, three terrestrial mammal species inhabit this fragile ecosystem: the Svalbard reindeer (Rangifer tarandus platyrhynchus), the arctic fox (Alopex lagopus), and the polar bear (Ursus maritimus).
Polar bears are very common on Svalbard; so, you need to take precautions and carry a rifle when walking outside the settlements. As new visitors to this amazing area, we are warned not to venture beyond the town limits without a rifle for protection against the Ursus maritimus. The Norwegian law protects polar bears, forbidding anyone to harm or disturb them unless it is deemed absolutely necessary in order to avert personal injury.

 Black guillemot (Cepphus grylle). Photo: © George Vlachos
 Bearded seal (Erignathus barbatus). Photo: © George Vlachos
 Purple sandpiper (Calidris maritima). Photo: © George Vlachos
 Arctic Tern (Sterna paradisaea). Photo: © George Vlachos
 Svalbard reindeer (Rangifer tarandus platyrhynchus). Photo: © George Vlachos
 Little Auks (Alle alle) on cliffs. Photo: © George Vlachos

The Archipelago also offers habitat to a large number of aquatic mammalian species, including bearded seals (Erignathus barbatus), white whales or belugas (Delphinapterus leucas), walruses (Odobenus rosmarus), narwhals (Monodon monoceros) etc.

During a 2-day-long expedition around the areas of the Barentsburg and Pyramiden settlements, I discover that Svalbard constitutes breeding ground for a large numbers of seabirds, including the Atlantic Puffin (Fratercula arctica), the Brunnich's Guillemot (Uria lomvia), the Black Guillemot (Cepphus grille), the Black-legged Kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla), the Little Auk (Alle alle) etc. The Svalbard Ptarmigan (Lagopus mutus hyperboreus), which is found on the larger islands, is the only land bird present here all over the year. Other seabirds include the aggressive Arctic Tern (Sterna paradisaea) and four species of skua.