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Freya (walrus)

Freya
Freya (walrus).jpg
Freya in Sandvika, August 2022
SpeciesWalrus
SexFemale
Died14 August 2022
Oslofjord, Norway
Cause of deathEuthanasia
Weight600 kg (1,323 lb; 94 st 7 lb)
Named afterFreyja

Freya was a young female walrus who appeared along the coasts of several western European countries (the Netherlands, Germany, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway) from October 2021 until her death on 14 August 2022. A rare sighting in the areas where she appeared, she attracted the attention of wildlife enthusiasts and the wider public. In the summer of 2022, after sunbathing on and sinking boats in the Oslofjord, she was euthanized after concerns about the public's safety. She weighed approximately 600 kilograms (1,300 lb). The decision to euthanize Freya was criticised by wildlife experts.

Name

Freya was nicknamed after Freyja, the Norse goddess of love and beauty.

Biography

Although she might have been seen elsewhere as early as 2019, Freya was first spotted and subsequently named in October 2021 resting on top of a Dutch Walrus-class submarine. She was the first walrus to visit the Netherlands in 23 years; walruses usually live several hundred miles north in the Arctic. In December 2021, she was seen relaxing on a salmon farm cage near the island of Vementry in Shetland. Before this, Freya had been spotted off the coasts of Denmark, Germany, and Northumberland. She was identifiable via a pink spot on her nose, as well as her small tusks and an old injury on her flipper, making her distinguishable from other wandering walruses Wally and Stena.

Scientists suspect that Freya originally lived on Svalbard, some 1,200 miles (1,900 km) away from Oslo. Caroline Radnofsky of NBC News speculated that climate change in the Arctic, which causes the ice cover to melt and thus increases competition for food, might have been a reason for Freya to stray so far from her natural habitat.

In the summer of 2022, Freya had become known for hauling out on and occasionally sinking boats in the Oslofjord in order to sunbathe. Due to the attention from the media and public, many people went to see her, with many of them getting too close to Freya. A week prior to her death, the fisheries ministry published photos of crowds of people who stood within touching distance of her. There was also evidence of people throwing items at Freya. This behaviour prompted warnings from Norwegian authorities, who said that approaching her could endanger both her and the public. In one incident, the police closed a bathing area after Freya chased a woman into the water. Due to the attention Freya was receiving, the fisheries ministry consulted a veterinarian on her condition, and considered that she was likely not getting enough rest and was stressed. Authorities had initially hoped that Freya would leave the area of her own accord.

Death

After repeated warnings from Norwegian authorities, Freya was killed by the Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries on the morning of 14 August 2022, due to fears about the safety of the public, who had ignored warnings about getting too close to Freya. Frank Bakke-Jensen, the director general of fisheries, stated that the decision to kill her was based "on an overall assessment of the continued threat to human safety". Bakke-Jensen also stated that other options had been explored, including the possibility of moving Freya from the fjord, which was discussed with the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research; these options were ultimately not carried out due to concerns regarding her welfare.

The Washington Post acknowledged the potential difficulties with transporting marine animals, pointing to a beluga whale who died earlier in August during his attempted rescue from a river near Paris. On 20 July, another wild walrus named Stena had died in Finland during an attempted transport to Korkeasaari Zoo for treatment.

Criticism of Freya's euthanasia

Siri Martinsen [no], leader of animal welfare group NOAH – for animal rights [no], criticised the decision to euthanise Freya and said that other measures should have been tried first. She also suggested that "those who fail to keep their distance from the animal should be fined, and I think that could have led to people following the guidelines", saying that imposing fines had not been considered. Similar criticism was voiced by wildlife conservation organisations Seal Rehabilitation and Research Centre and SOS Dolphin [nl] in the Netherlands. Rune Aae, a biologist from the University of South-Eastern Norway who had been tracking Freya's movement, called the decision "too hasty", saying that according to prior experience, "Freya had sooner or later gotten out of the Oslofjord".

This page was last updated at 2022-08-16 06:16 UTC. Update now. View original page.

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