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Norway euthanizes Freya, walrus who became famous while sinking boats

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Norwegian authorities have murdered Freya, a 1,300-pound walrus who rose to fame this summer sinking boats, they announced Sunday, claiming she had been euthanized over public safety concerns caused by the crowds she attracted.

“The decision to euthanize the walrus was made based on an overall assessment of the ongoing threat to human security,” said Fisheries Directorate Frank Bakke-Jensen. said in a statement.

“Highly skilled and trained personnel carried out the order in accordance with current marine mammal euthanasia routines and regulations,” added Bakke-Jensen.

The walrus – whose name refers to the Norse goddess of fertility and love — rose to fame in recent months as she traveled along the country’s coastline, damaging boats and ships after climbing aboard to rest for days or weeks at a time. But she’s been spotted as early as 2019, according to Rune Aae, a doctoral student in science didactics at the University of Southeast Norway, who charted Freya’s journey using photos taken by scientists and amateur photographers, who shared the images on social media. . and online databases.

On Sunday, Aae criticized the officials’ decision to kill Freya in a… Facebook post, who called the move “too hasty” and “completely unnecessary”. He noted that Freya was followed enough to ensure that the public could avoid her and that there would be fewer spectators now that the summer break was soon over.

Norwegian media covered Freya’s travels this summer, and Norwegians flocked to the coast of Oslo in recent weeks to watch her eat, sleep and rest. The fact that walruses typically live in herds in the Arctic made her solo presence off the coast of the capital — about 1,200 miles from where scientists think she came from — all the more unexpected.

Experts said she was drawn to the boats because they reminded her of Arctic ice floes, and advised boat owners to avoid her and park their ships so that they would be more difficult for Freya to access.

More walruses are hunting on land as climate change causes ice in the Arctic to melt, increasing competition for food, which may explain the extent of Freya’s travels.

The Fisheries Directorate said in a statement last month that “euthanasia is out of the question” and the “last option” as walruses are a protected species in Norway.

There are about 225,000 walruses in the world, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

On Thursday, the agency warned in a statement that euthanasia was an option, noting that onlookers gathered just steps away from the walrus to take photos, throw objects and swim.

“The animal’s welfare is clearly weakened. The walrus is not getting enough rest and the professionals we are talking to believe it is stressed,” Nadia Jdaini, senior communications advisor at the Fisheries Directorate, said in the statement.

Freya posed a “high” threat of potential harm to fans and spectators who did not follow official guidelines to keep their distance from her, according to the statement released Sunday.

“We have carefully considered all possible solutions. We came to the conclusion that we could not guarantee the welfare of the animals with any of the available resources,” said Bakke-Jensen.

He added that his department was discussing the possibility of relocating Freya with the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research, but that “the extensive complexity of such an operation made us conclude that this was not a viable option.”

“There were several animal welfare concerns associated with a possible move,” he added.

Erlend Asta Lorentzen, communications advisor at the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research, told NBC News via email Friday that “moving the walrus would be a difficult process, also because sedation carries the risk of drowning.”

Norwegian media reports of the news of Freya’s death reflected her growing fame. “The famous walrus Freya is dead“a read.”The murder of the famous walrus gets international attention‘, read another report.

“We are sympathetic to the fact that the decision may cause reactions from the public, but I am convinced that this was the right call. We have great respect for animal welfare, but human life and safety must come first.” says Bakke-Jensen. .

Caroline Radnofsky contributed.

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