Freya the walrus could be put down unless public back off, Norway warns

- BBC News

Freya the walrus could be put down unless public back off, Norway warns

A walrus that has become a popular attraction in the Oslo Fjord is being endangered by too much attention and could even be put down for her own good, authorities say.

The walrus, nicknamed Freya, rose to fame after clambering on to boats to sunbathe - sometimes sinking them.

But the Norwegian fisheries ministry says people are getting too close, putting her and themselves at risk.

It is considering measures, including euthanasia, if crowds persist.

Despite repeated warnings, people continue to gather close to the 1,300lb (600kg) walrus, the fisheries ministry said.

Its statement included a photograph of a large group of people, including children, standing within touching distance of the animal.

Spokesperson Nadia Jdaini said authorities had witnessed several potentially dangerous incidents in the last week, including people swimming with the walrus, approaching with their children to take photographs and throwing things at the animal.

"The fact that the walrus has become an attraction escalates the need for further measures. Our biggest fear is that people could get hurt," she said.

The police have been told about these incidents, she added.

The need to take further measures is also for Freyas welfare, which has clearly deteriorated, she said.

The walrus is not getting enough rest and a vet who has assessed her believes she is stressed.

The fisheries ministry is closely monitoring her in a patrol boat.

It is considering further measures, including a approving a "controlled operation to put the animal down", Ms Jdaini said.

Other options include moving the walrus from the Oslo fjord. There is currently no timeline for when a final decision will be taken.

Ms Jdaini added: "In the meantime, the distance recommendations and clarifications about not swimming with the walrus are repeated: we would again - strongly - recommend that the public keep their distance where the walrus has been observed and not bathe with it.

"It is for ones own safety and with animal welfare in mind."

Freya, who was first spotted in the Norwegian capital in mid-July, was named after the Norse goddess of beauty and love.

A protected species, walruses normally live further north in the Arctic.

They do not usually attack humans, but there have been some rare incidents.

At a wildlife park in China in 2016, a tourist and a zookeeper were killed by a walrus. The tourist had reportedly been taking selfies with the creature when he was grabbed and pulled underwater, while the keeper went in to rescue him but was also pulled under.

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