On Sunday, August 14, the Norwegian Ministry of Fisheries said it had killed Freya, the female walrus that settled in Frognerkilen Bay in the Oslofjord west of the Norwegian capital a few weeks ago. The crackdown, a spokesman for the fisheries ministry said, was decided because, despite repeated calls from authorities to stay away from Freya, Freya became a danger to the many people who approached her to photograph and film her.
The animal was killed by four Norwegian Fisheries Ministry workers who shot it dead at night, covered its body with a waterproof tarpaulin, cut the ropes of the boat it was on and dragged it away. The boat was then returned the next morning, cleaned and repaired. The body was delivered to a laboratory at the Norwegian Veterinary Institute on Monday.
However, the presence of the walrus had attracted much national and international attention. His killing, and more generally the way the problem of his presence in a heavily populated area was dealt with, provoked very strong and contrasting reactions in Norway, where many have harshly criticized the decision to suppress him – to the point of this Point, the director of the Department of Fisheries and his wife have received death threats – and many others support him.
Some biologists believe the animal was right to be euthanized.
For the biologist Per Espen Fjeld, who had already argued the need for such an intervention, the result was predictable: the animal became too dangerous: “People were swimming and suddenly they were a meter away. Animals cause harm and sometimes killing them is absolutely necessary as long as they do not endanger the survival of the species to which they belong. Among the 30,000 walruses in the North Atlantic, this single animal counts for nothing ».
Fjeld also emphasizes how disconcerting is the contrast between the attention that the media and public opinion give to this particular animal, even to the point of naming it, and the very little attention given to the species to which it belongs. is dedicated : “If we really care about walruses, we should look further north ».
Other experts agree, stating that walruses have unpredictable behavior, that “they are quite capable of catching a seal between their front flippers and stabbing it with their tusks” and that walrus attacks on divers and small boats have been recorded in the past became. The behavior of people who got very close to the walrus to look at it would have further increased the risk of an aggressive reaction.
They also state that to sedate the animal and take it away alive would have been very complicated and expensive, as well as dangerous for the animal.
However, there are also critical positions among experts. Fern Wickson, a professor at Norges arktiske universitet, argues that the danger posed by the walrus’ presence did not outweigh the risks that “we regularly tolerate in our society and in our daily lives”. According to Wickson, instead of continuing with repression, the government should have sought to manage potential risks and people’s behavior by introducing more effective security measures.
Biologist Rune Aae, who has been following Freya’s movements over the past few years, commented: “It is very sad that we decided to kill a magnificent animal simply because we could not behave properly around her. The fact that we could not handle this situation better is nothing more than a declaration of bankruptcy».
Meanwhile, the culling of the walrus has also become a political issue.
Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre has backed the decision to kill him. On the contrary, Igrid Liland, the secretary of the Greens in Norway, said he would put a parliamentary question. Liland argues that Freya is a symbol of government behavior in terms of protecting nature and endangered species.
Erik Holm, who works in communications, is of a similar opinion and, a few hours after the news of Freya’s death, opened a crowdfunding page to finance the construction of a statue commemorating the walrus: “The killing of Freya is a serious sign that we cannot provide habitat for wildlife in Norway and especially in Oslo. By erecting a statue of Freya and the symbol she has quickly become, we will always remember (and future generations will remember) that we cannot and must not kill and remove nature when it “disrupts.” ” “. The crowdfunding target – around 20,000 euros – has already been exceeded.