Life Below Water

Arctic Walrus Visits Ireland & Wales

It is thought the large sea mammal, fondly named 'Wally', may have become lost whilst hunting for food or new breeding space.

A young walrus has arrived on the coast of County Kerry for the first time in 17 years!

Whilst walruses are known to travel long distances, it is rare that they end up on Irish beaches, suggesting this juvenile may have become confused whilst out at sea.  The nearest population of this species of walrus is in the waters of Greenland and Svalbard, 1441 miles or 1973 miles away respectively.

Whilst the animal was said to look exhausted, it also seemed fit enough to swim home according to some experts. It has also been suggested that the

Now affectionately known as ‘Wally the Wandering Walrus’, it appeared again a week later on an RNLI slipway in Tenby, Wales.  Wally was checked over by the RSPCA, who said the animal was ‘underweight’ but wasn’t ‘displaying any signs of sickness or injury.’  They cannot yet tell whether Wally is male or female.

There are two main subspecies of walrus, Atlantic and Pacific, and both males and females have large tusks.  They can live for up to 40 years and males can reach 1.5 tonnes in weight! They appear to prefer shallow waters, and Atlantic walruses tend to rest ashore, which could explain why Wally has been spotted so frequently over the last few weeks. The main threat to walruses is climate change, as they spend spring and summer feeding on a huge continental ice shelf. As sea ice continues to melt, walruses are forced to find other hunting and breeding grounds, which could make them more vulnerable to poaching, overcrowding, and shipping disturbances.

The National Biodiversity Data Centre has only recorded 11 walrus visits dating back to 1987.

Posted by Claire Edwards 30 March 2021

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