A sculpture in memory of Freya the walrus
In August 2022 the Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries killed the wild female walrus who had become known as Freya. At the time that she was killed, she was resting in the Oslofjord in Norway. Freya had spent many months in Norway and had also visited other countries including the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and the United Kingdom. The Norwegian authorities argue that she was a direct threat to human safety but rather than increasing their efforts to keep people away from Freya, they chose to kill her.
To highlight how inappropriate this response was, a bronze statue of Freya created by artist Astri Tonoian has been erected in Kongen marina in Oslo. The idea behind the sculpture is to make people think about how wild animals like Freya should be treated and to remind people of our responsibility to protect wildlife.
During the lead-up to Freya’s untimely death, the Norwegian authorities received advice from the Norwegian organisation NOAH and from others in Europe who had recently had to manage similar situations. British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) had extensive experience to share as they had kept Wally the walrus safe during his visit to the United Kingdom in 2021. Wally and another walrus called Thor – who visited a number of European countries at the end of 2022 – both travelled northwards after their tours of Europe and they are presumed to have returned to more usual walrus habitat in the Arctic. Poor Freya was not given this opportunity.
OceanCare is concerned about the welfare of animals like Freya, Wally and Thor which turn up ‘out of habitat’ and supports ongoing efforts to understand why these animals are arriving in unusual places and how to manage such situations. In 2022, Oceancare ran the second international workshop on ‘Out of Habitat Marine Mammals’ and the report of the workshop includes further details about Freya as well as other cases involving whales, dolphins and seals.
Photo ©: Eirik Anzjøn and NOAH