Freya the walrus is euthanized in Oslo

An “incredibly sad” decision according to animal activists


Photo: Trond Reidar Teigen / NTB
Animal-rights activists the world over were shocked when Freya the walrus was euthanized in Oslo.

A walrus nicknamed Freya that attracted crowds while basking in the Oslofjord was euthanized on Aug. 21, with Norwegian officials saying it was the only option, but experts have slammed the action as “an infinitely sad” decision.

“The decision to euthanize [Freya] was taken on the basis of a global evaluation of the persistent threat to human security,” said the head of Norway’s fisheries directorate, Frank Bakke-Jensen, in an official statement.

“We carefully examined all the possible solutions. We concluded that we could not guarantee the wellbeing of the animal by any of the means available,” he said.

Officials had previously said they were considering euthanasia because repeated appeals to the public to keep their distance from the young female weighing 1,300 pounds had been in vain and that the walrus was experiencing excessive stress.

Freya, whose name is a reference to the Norse goddess of beauty and love, had made headlines since July 17, when she was first spotted in the waters of the Norwegian capital.

Walruses normally live in the more northerly latitudes of the Arctic.

Between long naps in the sun—a walrus can sleep up to 20 hours a day—Freya had been filmed chasing a duck, attacking a swan and, more often than not, dozing on boats that struggled to support her bulk.

Despite repeated appeals, curious onlookers continued to approach the mammal, sometimes with children in tow, to take photographs.

“Infinitely sad”

Experts said the decision to euthanize Freya did not take into account the animal’s overall wellbeing.

Siri Martinsen, a spokeswoman for animal rights group NOAH, told TV2 that it was a rushed measure and that fines should have been issued to disperse the onlookers.

“It’s very shocking,” she added, saying it was an opportunity to show people how to respect wild animals.

“It’s infinitely sad that they chose to euthanize such a beautiful animal simply because we did not behave well with it,” biologist Rune Aae told the NTB news agency.

Earlier, the Green Party said experts recommended giving Freya sedatives and taking her away from populated areas or taking her back to the remote Svalbard archipelago.

But Bakke-Jensen said that this  “was not a viable option” because such an operation would be too complex.

Freya, estimated to be around 5 years old, had already been sighted in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Sweden and chose to spend part of the summer in Norway.

Freya first gained notoriety in Norway by climbing onto pleasure boats in Kragerø, an idyllic southern coastal village.

The walrus is a protected species that feeds mainly on invertebrates, such as mollusks, shrimps, crabs, and small fish.

Walruses do not normally behave aggressively toward humans, but they can feel threatened by intruders and attack.

An operation earlier the same week to save a beluga whale stranded in France’s Seine River also ended with the animal dying.

This article originally appeared in the September 2, 2022, issue of The Norwegian American.

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The Local

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