“Two things are infinite. The universe and human stupidity” Albert Einstein
Freya, a five year old Walrus was killed in August 2022 by The Directorate Of Fisheries in Norway.Today we remember her by publishing this blog, our response to her death.
Scientists suspect (but cannot prove) that Freya originally came from Svalbard (also known as Spitzbergen) a Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic circle. A rich hunting ground for whalers and walrus hunters for three centuries. Walrus were hunted commercially and unregulated for their blubber & ivory. By 1952 Walrus populations had severely declined with only a few remaining in the area. They became a protected species and three decades later their numbers rose to around 100. Researchers believe that numbers have since risen to between three and four thousand. Walruses remain red listed (vulnerable) by The International Union for Conservation of Nature.
As global temperatures rise Svalbard warms up too with dire consequences. As the air warms, ice melts, sea ice forms later and thaws earlier. Walruses haul out to sea to feed and rely on ice floes to rest. They are having to travel further to feed and are increasingly hauling out on land. Their habitat is changing at a pace so fast adaptation is not possible.
If scientists suspicions are correct & Freya did originate from Svalbard we will never know why she left, if she was lost or if she was making her way back home. But, it might be reasonable to assume that, along with Wally who was spotted in Scotland not so long ago that we may see walruses again in areas we would not expect to find them. If that is the case, it makes what happened to Freya even more significant.
Freya has been spotted in many locations since 2021, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden & even here in the UK. She arrived in Oslo, a thousand miles from what is presumed her home, just a month ago. During the past month in Oslo Freya became somewhat of a tourist attraction.
In their natural environment a walrus sleeps a lot, up to 20 hours a day & will even nod off in the water. They can do this without drowning with the help of pharyngeal pouches. They have two of them which are elastic structures that expand to fill with air. Once full the air sacs allow the walrus to keep its head above water and avoid drowning while asleep.
While Freya was awake she was the focus of public adoration and attention. It has been reported that “fans” were approaching her to take pictures, selfies and that some even attempted, very foolishly, to swim with her. There have been unsubstantiated claims that people were throwing things at her, presumably to wake her or stir her in to action for human entertainment.
Freya was climbing on to boats, many unable to take her weight were damaged. I can’t imagine the boat owners were among her fans.
Despite many requests to stay away from Freya some people refused to listen.
The decision to euthanise her was made by the Directorate of Fisheries yesterday. In a statement it concluded that the risk of harm to humans was high and that animal welfare was not being maintained. You can find the statement here
Once again a wild animal is let down by the stupidity of humans. Humans who would not take the advice given to them and give her some space. She would have made her way out of Oslo and continued her journey, hopefully she would have eventually made her way home.
There are many lessons to be learned and many questions to ask regarding this terrible, senseless loss of life.
Why could she not have been translocated to a wildlife refuge like the walrus in the above picture.
Why were more rigorous steps not taken to control human activity in her area.
Have plans been drawn up should another walrus find their way to a place they shouldn’t be.
Why did the Directorate say that animal welfare was not being maintained and why was this a reason to end her life.
Are efforts being made to find out why Freya and Wally left their natural habitat and got lost in a human world.
I will be watching carefully for answers to these questions and praying that no other animal meets with the same fate as Freya. She has been failed by humans but she will not be forgotten.