When Freya the walrus, who made headlines around the world for sinking small craft while trying to find a place to snooze, was euthanized by the Norwegian government last week, not everyone was happy about it.
The walrus had become such a tourist attraction that the Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries decided to kill her “to protect the crowds of humans that just wouldn’t stay far enough away from the charismatic marine mammal.”
That reasoning didn’t go over well with at least one Norwegian scientist who argued that with two days to go before children went back to school, the crowds would have dissipated, and that the walrus would have eventually gone elsewhere of her own free will anyway. In a Facebook post, Rune Aae, a University of South-Eastern Norway biologist said,“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, and another example of a trigger-happy gun management—for which Norway is already well known. Norway is the country that killed Freya after being around for over two years around the entire North Sea. What a shame!”
Other countries had made accommodations for walruses, including Britain, which built a pontoon as a floating sleeping pad for Wally the walrus.
But not in Norway, where the directorate said they had considered other alternatives, including anesthetizing her for relocation or catching her by placing a net under a boat, but that they were worried that the walrus could drown if anesthetized or got entangled in the net.
Ironically, in a statement, Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries Director General Frank Bakke-Jensen said, “We concluded that we could not ensure the [animal’s] welfare through any means available.”
Aae disagreed. He told NBC News that better crowd control and trying and failing to move her would have been a better option. Arctic University of Norway professor Fern Wickson agreed with Aae. “That the government chose to take Freya’s life rather than try to manage this potential risk through implementing more effective measures to manage the behavior of people was surprising and disappointing,” she told BBC News.
Meanwhile, some outraged Freya fans have crowdsourced more than $25,000 to erect a statue to memorialize the walrus. “The shooting of Freya has a strong negative signal effect that we in Norway, and especially Oslo, are not able to provide living space for wild animals,” the crowd source appeal reads. “By erecting a statue of the symbol Freya, we will always remind ourselves (and future generations) that we cannot or should not always kill and remove nature when it is ‘in the way.’”