Norway Kills Adored Walrus Because Humans Wouldn’t Leave Her Alone

Authorities warned that she was a danger to the public.

Freya the walrus in Norway
Freya the walrus in Norway.

James T M Towill / CC BY-SA 2.0

A popular walrus that attracted tourists has been put down by Norwegian authorities because they said she posed a danger to the public.

Freya was a 1,320-pound (600 kilograms) female walrus who became popular in the Oslo Fjord, an inlet in Norway, for socializing with humans. She was filmed climbing aboard several boats to sunbathe—and then sinking them.

Recently, Norwegian authorities warned people to stay away from her after sharing a photo with her alongside a large crowd. There were reports of people swimming with her, throwing things at her, and getting close for photos.

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

People still got too close, despite warnings to stay away.

“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,” Bakke-Jensen said.

Freya was put down “in a humane fashion,” according to authorities who said they considered other solutions, such as moving the walrus to a safer location. They said the relocation was discussed with the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research.

Treehugger is not using the phrase “euthanized” which refers to “the act or practice of killing or permitting the death of hopelessly sick or injured individuals (such as persons or domestic animals) in a relatively painless way for reasons of mercy."

“We concluded that we could not ensure the animal’s welfare through any means available. 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 relocation,” said Bakke-Jensen.

"We have sympathies for the fact that the decision can cause a reaction from the public, but I am firm that this was the right call, We have great regard for animal welfare, but human life and safety must take precedence.”

Decision Was "Too Hasty"

People get close to Freya
A crowd gets close to Freya.

Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries

Animal rights groups and wildlife advocates have spoken out strongly against the death of Freya, whose name refers to the Norse god of love and beauty.

Rune Aae, a professor at the University of South-Eastern Norway who had been tracking Freya’s sightings, condemned the decision to kill her as “too hasty.”

“Freya had sooner or later gotten out of the Oslo Fjord, which all previous experience has shown, so killing her was, in my view, completely unnecessary,” Aae wrote on a Facebook post.

“Norway is the country that killed Freya after being around for over two years around the entire North Sea. What a shame! This is just sad!”

Walruses are classified as “vulnerable” to extinction by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). They don’t move far from the coast because they are dependent on shallow waters to find food, according to the World Wildlife Fund. There are likely about 25,000 adult animals in the waters of the Atlantic. They face threats from energy mining, fishing, pollution, and human interference.

"What an indictment of human behavior and lack of discipline that, after the destruction of natural walrus habitats, a beautiful, friendly walrus has now been killed – just because people wanted to take selfies and wouldn’t leave her alone," Mimi Bekhechi, vice president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) U.K., said in a statement.

"Fines and imprisonment for those who treat living, feeling beings like props would be a more humane option than killing an animal who was merely trying to eke out an existence, but the deed is done. Freya’s death shows that animals often pay with their lives for selfies, which is why PETA says back off, respect all animals, and leave wildlife in peace.”