When a large adult walrus (600kg/1,300lb) arrived in Oslo fjord in mid-July, she soon became a major attraction like many other marine mammals before her that have taken up residence somewhere outside of their normal territory and close to a major human settlement. Crowds rushed to see her.
Then, on Sunday, Freya, as she became known, was suddenly euthanised on the grounds that she posed a threat to human safety and this action has caused such an outpouring of outrage from all around the world that the Norwegian Prime Minister has made a statement.
«I support the decision to euthanise Freya,» Jonas Gahr Støre told the public broadcaster NRK on Monday. He added «It was the right decision. I am not surprised that this has led to many international reactions. Sometimes we have to make unpopular decisions.»
The Norwegian authorities claim that the decision to kill her was based on an assessment of the overall threat to human safety after the public ignored warnings not to get too close, including posing for photographs with her. There are also reports of people swimming with her.
OceanCare deeply regrets the euthanisation of Freya and believes that people need to behave more responsibly when encountering wildlife out of their habitat. At OceanCare we are working with others to look at the difficulties that develop when marine mammals are found outside of their normal habitat, and this includes walruses. We are concerned that there will be more of them as their natural habitats are increasing eroded as a result of our activities. Greater efforts need to be made to prepare for these situations and to manage them in the best interests of the welfare of the animal. You can read our blog about these animals here and the results of a workshop on this issue here.