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Nature / Local fury after Freya the walrus put down in Norway

Freya the walrus, captured by Hugh Harrop on her visit to Shetland last year.

THERE has been anger locally after a free-roaming walrus called Freya – which entranced nature lovers in a visit to Shetland last year – was put down by Norwegian authorities over safety fears.

Shetland Islands Council leader Emma Macdonald said she was “sad and disappointed” at the outcome but would not support a call made locally to send an official note of protest to the Norwegian government.

“It’s not for Shetland Islands Council to influence another authority’s actions in such a situation,” she said in a statement to Shetland News.

“However, I am sad and disappointed that this was the eventual outcome. Freya brought a lot of joy to those who encountered her in Shetland, and I would hope that, if a similar situation arose again in the future, the Norwegian authorities could find an alternative solution.”

Meanwhile local naturalists have voiced their anger – with Shetland Wildlife’s Hugh Harrop calling the decision “indefensible”.

“I think what has happened is completely abhorrent and ignorant of the fact that so many people would have wished to helped the situation by means of crowd control or educating the public and doing what is best for the animal, and certainly not euthanising it,” he said.

Freya pictured in Norway last week. Photo: Norway’s Directorate of Fisheries

“Here in Shetland, albeit on a much smaller level, there are many individuals, myself included, who go to great lengths to ensure that animal are treated with respect, and parameters built to ensure their safety.

“A classic example of this is when Freya visited Shetland, the famous bearded seal in Lerwick harbour and on Burra, and may other special animals that have graced our isles with their presence.”

Nature writer Jon Dunn also said it was an “astonishing and repugnant act”.

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The 600kg walrus was put down in the Oslo fjord after it attracted crowds of people keen to get a glimpse, despite warnings.

Head of Norway’s fisheries directorate Frank Bakke-Jensen said the decision was taken on a “basis of a global evaluation of the persistent threat to human security”.

The directorate also said the walrus “seemed stressed by the massive attention and the welfare of the animal was compromised”.

Bakke-Jensen added: “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.”

Shetland News first reported in December that a curious walrus was seen lounging on a salmon farm cage on Shetland’s westside.

It soon transpired that the impressive marine animal was an Arctic walrus named Freya, who had also been spotted in countries such as Denmark and Germany.

At the time Harrop said seeing Freya arrive in Shetland in December last year, before spending some time in the isles, was like Christmas coming early.

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