Norway's celebrity walrus may be put at risk

50
2
Norway's celebrity walrus may be put at risk

Fame may be putting Norway's celebrity walrus at risk of death.

Crowds gathered to see the 1,300 pound star of the country's summer, nicknamed Freya, are damaging the marine mammal's health to such an extent that euthanasia is now an option, the country's Directorate of Fisheries warned on Thursday.

People are gathering just feet away to take photos, throw objects and even swim in the water near Freya, who has made her home this week on a peninsula in Sandvika, about 10 miles west of Oslo, the capital, the statement said.

The welfare of the animal is clearly weakened. The walrus is not getting enough rest and the professionals we are in dialogue with believe she is stressed, Nadia Jdaini, senior communications adviser at the Directorate of Fisheries, said in the statement.

She said that we are investigating further measures, where euthanasia could be a real alternative.

The walrus has been an object of curiosity in Norway this summer as she swims from harbor to harbor along the country's jagged coastline, feeding and resting on small boats that she often damages with her weight, to the frustration of owners and the amusement of onlookers.

Walruses are a protected species in Norway, and the Directorate of Fisheries previously said that Euthanasia was out of the question. The directorate said that Freya's celebrity status is raising fears for her safety as well as for members of the public who get too close to her, and that it had informed police about incidents where people tried to swim up to the walrus.

The biggest fear is that people could get hurt, Jdaini said.

Norway's Institute of Marine Research, whose scientists had been consulting with authorities on Freya's welfare, warned that relocating her to a more private space could be risky.

Walruses are not commonly seen south of the Arctic Circle, but scientists believe Freya may have travelled from Norway's northern archipelago of Svalbard to feed on a species of invasive Pacific oyster found in coastal areas of northern Europe. The sightings of Freya have been documented online from as early as 2019.

Freya s small tusks mark her as a young walrus, and a white scar on her right nostril and previous injury on her flipper help distinguish her from other members of her species that have undertaken similar tours in the past few years.