When we first wrote about Freya the walrus, the young 1,300-pound walrus was making the most of Scandinavia’s long summer days by sunbathing on and (much to the chagrin of boat owners) occasionally sinking boats around Norway.
But while Freya’s adorable antics earned her a large human following, who obsessively followed the young walrus’ movements and caused her to go viral on Twitter, some of Freya’s fans got a little too close in real life.
Big story in Norway this summer is a walrus we've named Freya has made it to our shores and is touring the country, laying around and sinking boats pic.twitter.com/rQolsxd88b
— Wild Geerters (@steinkobbe) July 19, 2022
Authorities repeatedly warned that they would have to euthanize Freya if people – many of whom insisted on taking photos with the walrus, sometimes even with their children in tow – refused to give the sunbathing walrus some personal space.
“She’s not aggressive,” one Norwegian biologist told The New York Times, but “if she wants to play with you, you will lose, no matter what happens.”
Now it sadly seems that the government has made good on its threat to euthanize Freya, whose only crime was soaking up the sun during Norway’s long summer days.
Now they've killed Freya, the gentle walrus who meant no harm to anyone.
It's indefensible. Wild animals increasingly have no safe place in this world.
Every single person who ignored the warnings should be deeply ashamed. She had her whole life to live. pic.twitter.com/gbVUR8JfMQ
— Tom (@ITomMontgomery) August 14, 2022
According to NPR, Norway’s Directorate of Fisheries euthanized Freya “based on an overall assessment of the continued threat to human safety.”
“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,” the directorate said. “Therefore, the Directorate has concluded, the possibility for potential harm to people was high and animal welfare was not being maintained.”
So Norway threatens to kill Freya the walrus because people can't stop taking selfies, throwing things at her & swimming near her with their kids.
A perfect example of everything that's wrong with humanity. pic.twitter.com/zZrDwDAiLQ
— Tom (@ITomMontgomery) August 13, 2022
Less extreme options, like relocating the friendly walrus, were reportedly considered, but authorities apparently decided euthanasia was the only workable option.
“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,” said ministry director Frank Bakke-Jensen. “We have great regard for animal welfare, but human life and safety must take precedence.”
In memory of #Freya – the wandering Walrus that graced us here Shetland last winter.
MURDERED today by the Directorate of Fisheries in #Norway because she was perceived as a "continued threat to human safety".
Abhorrent and unforgivable on every level. pic.twitter.com/Nu6z1qnIpl
— Hugh Harrop Wildlife (@HughHarrop) August 14, 2022
Many people – in Norway and around the world – were outraged by the directorate’s decision, including Rune Aae, a university biology professor who had been mapping the friendly walrus’ movements.
After Freya was euthanized, Aae slammed the decision on Facebook, describing the decision as “too hasty,” especially because (based on Freya’s previous visits to the area) the walrus was likely about to leave the fjord relatively soon, reducing the risk to public safety. “Euthanasia was, in my view, completely unnecessary,” Aae wrote on Facebook. “What a shame!”
Many others shared Aae’s outrage on Facebook.
“ARE YOU KIDDING ME? A young walrus was killed for nothing..she could have been relocated to a sanctuary, a rescue or a zoo!! But instead you kill her?” one angry reader commented on his post.
“It is ridiculous that a perfectly healthy walrus was killed because of stupid humans following her and documenting her,” another person agreed. “What a stupid decision.”
What do you think about the government’s decision? Did Freya the walrus deserve to be euthanized? Let us know in the comments!