Why Are Walruses Ending Up On UK Coasts?

by Rachel Kersten - Freeman

On the 30th of December 2022, a walrus believed to be Thor – the same walrus that was spotted earlier that year in Calshot, Hampshire – was found in Scarborough. Although walruses are usually found in the arctic circle, over the past 130 years there have been 27 walrus sightings in UK waters, three of them being within the last two years. For example, in 2021 Wally the walrus was found on the west coast of England and Ireland before making its way to North Spain and finally returning to the arctic.

Although this was an exciting event, we can’t fail to ignore the true cause of why this walrus ended up so far from its usual waters. Walruses use ice caps as a place to rest and to leave their young calves whilst diving for food, the destruction of their habitat means that walruses are forced onto land where they can come in to contact with predators, air crafts or, in this case, people.

A combination of contact with vast amounts of people and being so far form home creates a deadly combination that will only stress the walrus. Despite the public being advised to keep clear and not post the location of any walrus that winds up on our coast on social media, people still flock to catch a glance of the misplaced animal and often post its every move. Even though on this occasion people who did make the journey to see Thor were advised to stay quiet and not disturb him, having swarms of people surrounding him and watching his every move still would’ve made this a very stressful environment for Thor.

With 95% of the world’s thickest and oldest ice in the Arctic already having disappeared and Greenland and Antarctica losing roughly 430 billion tonnes in ice mass per year, according to NASA, who knows what will happen to walruses and many other animals as more and more of their habitats disappear into the rising sea level.

 

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Arctic Ice Loss

For more information about:

Thor the walrus – https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-york-north-yorkshire-64134860

https://www.nhm.ac.uk/discover/news/2022/december/walrus-spotted-on-beach-in-southern-uk.html

The effect of melting ice caps on species such as walruses – https://www.wwf.org.uk/updates/11-arctic-species-affected-climate-change

The mass of ice lost – https://www.worldwildlife.org/pages/why-are-glaciers-and-sea-ice-melting#:~:text=Even%20if%20we%20significantly%20curb,the%20Arctic%20is%20already%20gone.

https://climate.nasa.gov/vital-signs/ice-sheets/

 

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