“I am convinced that it was the right call. We place great importance on animal welfare, but human life and safety must come first,” said the director of the Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries, Frank Bakke-Jensen. . said in a report.
The young female walrus – nicknamed after the Norse goddess of beauty and love – has been causing a stir in the Norwegian capital for mid-July, apparently drawing attention to what some outlets described as her “hot girls summer.” Verdens Gang, a Norwegian tabloid, created a 24 hours live camera to film his exploits.
The decision to euthanize Freya caused an immediate reaction on social media, with many people denounce the decision as a national disgrace. Some have raised questions about why authorities have not attempted to move the walrus to a safer area.
Bakke-Jensen said the movement of the marine mammal had been carefully studied with the help of experts from the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research. Authorities concluded that the complexity of the operation meant “it was not a viable option”, he said.
He added that there were “several animal welfare issues associated with a possible relocation”. He did not detail those concerns.
Transporting animals involves great risks. A beluga whale trapped in a river northwest of Paris died this month as rescuers tried to bring the 13ft mammal back to shore, despite a massive operation that involved 80 people – divers, scientists, police and firefighters.
After realizing it was too weak to survive, authorities decided to euthanize the suffering animal, they said. It was unclear how the whale, which weighed more than 1,700 pounds, strayed so far from the arctic waters that are its natural habitat.
Freya had also been sighted along the coasts of several European countries in recent months, including Britain, Denmark and the Netherlands. (The young walrus once took an elevator on a Dutch submarine. Appropriately, it belonged to the class of Walrus ships.)
Walruses normally live in the ice-covered waters of Canada, Greenland, Norway, Russia and Alaska. There are approximately 25,000 Atlantic walruses and 200,000 Pacific walruses in the wild. They typically rest on sea ice between feeding bouts.
Marine mammals are protected in the USA. The United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit last year ruled that the Trump administration did wrong in its decision to decline to list the Pacific walrus as threatened or endangered in 2017.
As the climate warms, wildlife advocates worry that melting sea ice will cause walruses to rest on land more often – and push them away from their traditional fishing habitats.
Walruses are also exposed to more shipping, tourism, industry and noise, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature. Animals are easily spooked and may rush in an attempt to reach water safety.
In a recent video from Oslo, a trio on a Jet Ski pulled up just yards from a boat where Freya was napping, while several onlookers watched from the pier. Officials released a photo on Sunday of dozens of people huddled together on a pier a few feet from the animal, their faces blurred for privacy.
“Through on-site observations last week, it was made clear that the public has been disregarding the current recommendation to keep a clear distance from walrus,” Bakke-Jensen said. “The possibility of potential harm to people was high and animal welfare was not maintained,” he added.
Rune Aae, a researcher at the University of South East Norway who followed the walrus via the Facebook group “Freya the walrus – where is she now?”, criticized Norway’s decision to euthanize Freya as ” hasty” and “completely unnecessary”. .”
School holidays are nearly over for summer, and onlookers who have gathered to watch walruses in the waters of Norway’s capital will soon disperse, Aae wrote Sunday.
Another walrus, nicknamed Wally, was spotted off the coast of Britain last year and made it all the way to northern Spain before apparently back to the arctic.
Ellen Francis contributed to this report