Backlash to killing of Freya the walrus who made home on Shetland

A wildlife photographer who befriended a walrus when she made her home in Shetland has condemned the animal’s “murder” after the creature was killed by authorities in Oslo.

Freya was “euthanised” on Sunday after the public failed to take notice of warnings to keep their distance from the walrus, who spent its day sunbathing on boats and being pursued by selfie-hunters and paddle boarders.

Officials said the walrus, who weighs 600kg, had become a threat to human safety because people did not keep their distance from her in the water.

Hugh Harrop, wildlife photographer, cameraman and founder of Shetland Wildlife, helped to protect Freya when she made her home on a salmon pen at a fish farm at Aith Ness, on the coast of Shetland’s West Mainland, in December last year, before moving to a beach at Muckle Roe.

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The wandering walrus also made her home in Northumberland and Wales before heading over to the Netherlands and Germany. She arrived in Oslo last month.

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Mr Harrop said: “It’s absolutely abhorrent and unbelievable that a wild animal is being murdered due to human behaviour. It is not the behaviour of the animal that is at fault. It’s the Norwegian government not be able to control people.”

Mr Harrop contrasted the treatment of Freya in Norway to that she received while swimming around Britain, where volunteers helped to keep the animal and the public at safe distance from each other.

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The young female walrus Freya resting on a boat in Frognerkilen, Oslo Fjord, Norway. She was "euthanised" on Sunday given the threat to "human security". (Photo by Tor Erik Schrøder / NTB / AFP) / Norway OUT.

He said Freya should have been anaesthetised and moved to the nearest walrus colony, which is around a three-hour flight from Oslo.

"The outrage surrounding Freya’s murder is warranted,” he said. “We can’t change the past, we can’t bring Freya back, but lessons have to be learned.”

Mr Harrop pointed to the rescue of a sperm whale in Shetland after it came dangerously close to the shore for ten days, with boats managing to coax the animal into deeper waters after a six-hour rescue through hail and snow in April.

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"That was a massive effort that involved salmon farmers and conservationists coming together,” he said. “With all the resources of the Norwegian government, why couldn’t they do the same? What they did should have been a last resort.”

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