In sad news out of Norway, beloved walrus Freya had to be euthanized after tourists became too friendly around her. Freya spent her time in the Oslofjord climbing up on boats and piers. Officials claimed she had become a risk to public safety earlier this week. They warned tourists not to get close to the 1,300-pound walrus. But, oftentimes visitors would gather around her for pictures or swim with her in the fjord waters.
Norway’s Director General of Fisheries, Frank Bakke-Jensen, made a statement about the decision. “Through on-site observations the past week, it was made clear that the public has disregarded the current recommendation to keep a clear distance to the walrus,” they said. “Therefore, the Directorate has concluded [that] the possibility for potential harm to people was high and animal welfare was not being maintained.”
According to the Washington Post, Freya has traveled to the coasts of Britain, Denmark, and the Netherlands. She had recently made a home in the Oslofjord, but officials hoped she would leave on her own. Additionally, walruses are a protected species under the Endangered Species Act–the third Arctic species to be protected. This makes Freya’s death all the more tragic.
Bakke-Jensen mentioned in the statement that the Directorate of Fisheries posed several options, including relocating Freya. But, he said, “The extensive complexity of such an operation made us conclude that this was not a viable option.”
Speaking on the euthanization itself, he continued, “Highly skilled and trained personnel executed the order in conduct with current routines and regulations for euthanasia for marine mammals.” Freya’s body was turned over to veterinarians with the Animal Welfare Authority for examinations. Jensen assured residents that Freya was put down “in a humane fashion.”
Freya the Walrus is Euthanized, and Some Think the Decision Came Too Fast
Of the decision to euthanize Freya instead of relocating her, some think it was rushed. Norway’s World Wide Fund for Nature marine biologist Fredrik Myhre told the New York Times that the decision seems to have come too fast.
According to the outlet, the Directorate of Fisheries warned visitors of interacting with Freya just three days before they decided to euthanize her. “I’m surprised by the speed of the decision,” said Myhre. “[Norway’s officials] should have been more patient.”
It’s possible that tourists and residents would have backed off of Freya if given more time. But, also, the Directorate had to consider potential threats to human life. At least, that’s what Bakke-Jensen maintains. “We have sympathies for the fact that the decision can cause reactions with the public, but I am firm that this was the right call,” he said. “We have great regard for animal welfare, but human life and safety must take precedence.”