Norwegian authorities have euthanised Freya, the 600kg walrus who had spent the past weeks off the coast of Oslo climbing onto boats and lounging on piers, saying that moving her was “too high risk”.
“In the end, we couldn’t see any other options,” said Olav Lekver, a spokesperson for the Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries. “She was in an area that wasn’t natural for her.”
Lekver said walruses needed a lot of rest and people had been bothering Freya by swimming with her and taking photos of her. The Oslo Fjord is busy in summer, with swimmers, boaters and other water recreationists. Walruses are social animals and rarely venture somewhere alone, which may have been why Freya had spent time in a highly populated area.
The directorate had repeatedly warned people to stay away from the animal, but they mostly did not listen, Lekver said. Authorities warned last week that Freya faced the prospect of being killed if they could not convince onlookers to stay away.
Freya became a threat to human safety, Lekver said, adding, “She chased people on paddle boards and kayaks.”
He did not specify how Freya was killed, but said it was “according to regulations”.
Freya was spotted off the coasts of Britain and various European countries, including the Netherlands and Denmark, for at least two years.
There are roughly 225,000 walruses in the wild, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature. They live in ice-covered waters in Canada, Greenland, Norway, Russia and Alaska.
In their usual habitat, walruses haul themselves onto sheets of ice. In the case of Freya, she was hauling herself onto piers and boats. Some ice sheets are melting because of climate change, causing walruses to lose some of their habitat.
“Many other options should’ve been tried before killing her,” said Rune Aae, a biologist at the University of South-Eastern Norway who had been tracking Freya’s movement on a Google map to help people know when to stay away from her. In a Facebook post Sunday, he called the decision to kill her “too hasty”.
“Freya had sooner or later gotten out of the Oslofjord, which all previous experience has shown, so euthanasia was, in my view, completely unnecessary,” he wrote. - New York Times
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