By Shannon Lane @shannonroselane
Scroll down for the full story
The Svalbard islands, in the north of the Arctic Ocean, are home to 3,000 of the fearsome mammals.
Even with a global conservation status of ‘vulnerable’, various sources report figures of between 300 and 800 of the majestic bears being killed for their fur or for sport worldwide.
Luckily these misunderstood bears continue to thrive in Svalbard, because they are protected under strict government rules.
Professional wildlife and aviation photographer Andy Rouse visited the polar bear habitat in June 2016.
He said: “A polar bear approached very close to our ship. It spent over 24 hours close to us, sleeping, walking around, then sleeping again.
“We were moored against an ice flow with the engine switched off.”
Polar bears have similar levels of eyesight and hearing to humans, but their sense of smell is far more acute.
The bears can smell a seal from up to 1 kilometre away, so it is no surprise that the polar bears tracked down the group.
The Cardiff-based photographer said: "They came and found us! I was up there running an expedition to see them and so we were in the pack ice as that is their natural home."
Polar bears are the iconic symbol of Svalbard and these inquisitive animals are one of the main tourist attractions.
Rouse said: “It was magical, inspiring and exhilarating to have one of the worlds most endangered and endearing animals close to us in their natural environment.
“It was amazing to be able to look right into their eyes. As always a wonderful experience with a truly magnificent polar bear.”