Officials decided to euthanize the walrus in the early hours of Sunday local time after the public ignored repeated warnings to keep their distance from her. Authorities had considered moving the walrus, but ultimately decided the operation was too risky. Marine experts say there’s a chance a sedated marine mammal could drown.
Many people denounced the decision as a national disgrace. Some wondered why authorities didn’t try to move the walrus to a safer area or wait for it to leave alone as the summer crowds dispersed.
Freya’s death “has a strong negative signal effect that we in Norway, and especially Oslo, cannot provide habitat for wildlife,” Erik Holm, the organizer of the fundraiser, wrote in his appeal.
“By erecting a statue of the symbol Freya quickly became, we will always remind ourselves (and future generations) that we cannot or should not always kill and remove nature when it ‘gets in the way,'” he added. Holm to it.
In an email, Holm, a Norway-based founder of digital start-ups, said he hates it when people say “that’s the way it is” when things can be better.
Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store defended the decision this week, telling national broadcaster NRK that as a seafaring nation we “sometimes have to make unpopular decisions”. He added that he had had similar discussions about euthanizing minke whales and seals.
The campaign had raised more than $20,000 on Wednesday, and Holm said several sculptors had expressed interest in creating the statue. Donations came mainly from Norway, but also from the United States, he said. In the event that the project does not go ahead, all donations will go to the Norwegian branch of the World Wildlife Fund, he said.
City officials in Oslo, responding to a question whether they would support the statue in a public place, said the statue is a “private initiative and the municipality has nothing to do with it”.
Walruses normally live in the ice-covered waters of Canada, Greenland, Norway, Russia and Alaska. There are approximately 25,000 Atlantic walruses and 200,000 Pacific walruses in the wild. They usually rest on sea ice between feeding periods.
However, climate change is driving animals further and further away from their natural habitat. A beluga whale trapped in a river northwest of Paris, far from its home in the Arctic, died this month as rescuers tried to get the 13-footed mammal back to shore.
Beluga whale dies after French rescuers three-meter-long mammal from Seine. lift
Freya had also been spotted along the coasts of several European countries in recent months, including Great Britain, Denmark and the Netherlands.
“Unfortunately, it gets worse as we start moving more of these polar species to other waters,” said Karen Stockin, a marine ecologist at Massey University in New Zealand. New Zealand faces similar challenges in managing marine mammals, including sea lions and leopard seals, who venture from Antarctica to the Pacific Ocean.
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“Our days when we have more clear, distinct boundaries between some of these animals and our own existence – with climate change – are going to be fewer. We will have more overlap in our communities and our coastal environment. And that’s why people will have to plan for it,” said Stockin, who in recent days has rescued a pod of wild dolphins stranded on an island off the coast of Auckland.
The frenzied attention Freya garnered during her stay in Oslo — crowds swarming on the walrus’ feet — showed that more needs to be done to educate the public on how to stay safe, marine experts say. Officials released a photo of dozens of people on a pier near the animal on Sunday.
“You wouldn’t be on the Serengeti and think it’s okay to be up close and personal with a lion,” Stockin said. She said authorities should focus on “people management, not animal management” in cases like Freya’s.
“Something strange is happening when it comes to marine mammals. Humans will get much closer than they ever would to any normal-sized terrestrial wild animal. It’s crazy,” Stockin said. “And if it’s not adequately managed by the authorities…it’s the animal that suffers.”
Holm, the organizer of the fundraiser for the statue of Freya, said he has never met the walrus in person. There was a strict order from authorities not to approach the animal, he said, which he followed.
“I’m both annoyed and sad that people don’t follow the rules,” he said. “We must learn to respect both nature and animals, but also the warnings and rules of the authorities.”