Norway euthanizes Freya, a walrus who became famous by sinking boats

Norwegian authorities killed Freya, a 1,300-pound walrus who rose to fame this summer by sinking boatsthey announced on Sunday, saying she was euthanized due to public safety concerns caused by the crowd she was attracting.

“The decision to euthanize the walrus was made based on an overall assessment of the continuing threat to human safety,” Fisheries Branch Frank Bakke-Jensen said. said in a press release.

“Highly qualified and trained personnel carried out the order in accordance with current routines and regulations for the euthanasia of marine mammals,” Bakke-Jensen added.

The walrus — whose name refers to the Norse goddess of fertility and love – rose to fame over the past few months as she cruised the country’s coastline, damage boats and ships after boarding to rest for days or weeks at a time. But she was spotted as early as 2019, according to Rune Aae, a doctoral student in science education at the University of Southeastern Norway who mapped Freya’s journey through photos taken by scientists and amateur photographers, who have shared the images on social media. and online databases.

On Sunday, Aae criticized officials’ decision to kill Freya in a Facebook post, calling the move “too hasty” and “completely unnecessary”. He noted that there was enough following from Freya to ensure audiences could avoid her and that there would be fewer spectators with summer vacation ending soon.

Norwegian media reported on Freya’s travels this summer, and Norwegians have flocked to the Oslo coast in recent weeks to watch her eat, sleep and rest. The fact that walruses typically live in herds in the Arctic added to the attraction, making her presence solo off the coast of the capital – around 1,200 miles from where scientists believe she came from – all the more unexpected.

Experts said she was drawn to boats because they reminded her of Arctic ice floes and advised boat owners to avoid her and park their boats so they are harder for Freya to access.

More walruses hunt on land as climate change melts the ice in the Arctic, increasing competition for food, which may explain the extent of Freya’s travels.

The Directorate of Fisheries said in a statement last month that “euthanasia is out of the question” and the “last option” given that walruses are a protected species in Norway.

There are approximately 225,000 walruses in the world, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature.

Thursday, the agency warned in statement that euthanasia was an optionnoting that onlookers gathered within yards of the walrus to take pictures, throw objects and swim.

“Animal welfare is clearly compromised. The walrus is not getting enough rest and the professionals we are talking to believe she is stressed,” Nadia Jdaini, senior communications adviser at the Fisheries Directorate, said in the statement.

Freya posed a “high” threat of potential harm to fans and spectators who did not follow official guidelines to keep their distance from her, according to the statement issued on Sunday.

“We have carefully studied all possible solutions. We concluded that we could not ensure animal welfare by any means available,” Bakke-Jensen said.

He added that his department had discussed the possibility of moving Freya with the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research, but that “the high complexity of such an operation made us conclude that it was not a viable option”.

“There were several animal welfare issues associated with a possible relocation,” he added.

Erlend Asta Lorentzen, communications adviser at the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research, told NBC News via email on Friday that “moving the walrus would be a difficult process, also because tranquilizing carries a risk of drowning.”

Norwegian media reports on the news of Freya’s death reflect her growing fame. “The famous walrus Freya is dead“, we read. “The murder of the famous walrus captures the attention of the international community“, read another report.

“We have sympathy that the decision may provoke public reaction, but I am convinced that it was the right call. We have great respect for the welfare of animals, but the life and the human security must come first,” said Bakke-Jensen. .

Caroline Radnofsky contributed.

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