An Arctic walrus that washed up on the rocks at Valentia Island in Co Kerry last Sunday has now been spotted in Wales.
Seal Rescue Ireland did not specify the exact location of the mammal to avoid attracting onlookers. Marine Life Rescue is said to be keeping an eye on the walrus as it is undoubtedly tired after another long journey.
The animal appeared to be “extremely tired and emaciated” when last seen in Kerry, a local marine biologist said.
The walrus, likely to have originated in Greenland and been guided towards Ireland by the Gulf Stream, was spotted by a father and his daughter while walking on Valentia Island last Sunday afternoon.
Alan Houlihan said he and his daughter Muireann knew it was a walrus within seconds of spotting it.
“It is the size of a cow or a bull in the water… I hadn’t seen anything like it before in Ireland,” he told RTÉ Radio One’s Morning Ireland.
“I went down this morning and there was no sign of him so I hope he is out feeding on scallop and getting nice and strong to make his journey back,” he said last Monday, adding that Muireann has named it Isabelle or Cian, depending on its gender.
Atlantic walruses inhabit coastal areas from northeastern Canada to Greenland.
Marine biologist and director of Dingle’s OceanWorld Aquarium, Kevin Flannery, told the Irish Times it is “very unusual” for a walrus to be spotted in this part of the world, although there have been potential sightings from surfers and fishermen in Ireland in the past.
Given the pattern of the Gulf Stream, Mr Flannery said the animal is likely from Greenland. He said he suspects the sea mammal fell asleep on a sheet of ice that broke away and drifted towards Ireland’s south-west coast.
“By the time he realised he was probably far from home… He has no GPS so he probably just swam away and didn’t realise the direction until he found Valentia,” Mr Flannery said, adding the animal is lucky to have survived the journey.
Videos of the walrus show it is “extremely tired and emaciated”, he added. The animal’s ivory tusks have not yet fully grown out, suggesting it is still young.
“He has lost an awful lot of body fat and blubber… If he can regain his energy he will get back up [to Greenland],” Mr Flannery went on.
Human interference has created issues for walruses. The species was hunted for its valuable ivory tusks, while global warming has melted away much of the ice caps they rely on, the marine biologist said.
“It is awfully hard now for them to find somewhere safe to rest… Global warming is having an effect on them. There is no doubt that human action has caused problems for them,” he added.