European Wilderness Society

Norway’s authorities killed walrus Freya

Who is Freya?

A young 600kg female walrus had been basking in the waters of Oslo. She attracted the crowds and videos of her became viral quickly, so people gave her the nickname Freya, referring to the Norse goddess of beauty and love. 

Freya had already been sighted in the UK, the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden and chose to spend part of the summer in Norway. Freya first gained notoriety in Norway by climbing on to pleasure boats in Kragerø, an idyllic southern coastal village. Between long naps – a walrus can sleep up to 20 hours a day – Freya was filmed chasing a duck, attacking a swan and, more often than not, dozing on boats struggling to support her bulk.

In Oslo, Freya gained popularity among crowds, which ended tragically for her. Because of curiosity and for good pictures, people were constantly approaching her. People were warned from getting close to the animal, but they ignored it. Last week, Norway’s Ministry of Fisheries released a photo of a large group of people, including children, standing within touching distance of the animals. Also, some people throw the objects in her or tried to swim in the water nearby walrus.

The decision to euthanise

Fisheries Director General Frank Bakke-Jensen said the decision to euthanize the animal was based “on a joint assessment of the ongoing threat to human safety.”

I support the decision to euthanise Freya. It was the right decision. I am not surprised that this has led to many international reactions. Sometimes we have to make unpopular decisions.

Jonas Haar Støre
Prime Minister of Norway

The animal activists’ position

Animal and wildlife activists are totally against these kind of “unpopular” decisions. The started a social media campaign with #FreyaTheWalrus criticising the lack of attention to other possible solutions, such as fines for people who crossed the line of distancing or relocation of Freya to another region. 

People behaved like idiots in the face of nature. Elsewhere, authorities managed to keep them away, and people managed to show consideration. But here in Oslo fjord, no one could be bothered – so we kill it instead.

Truls Gulowsen
Head of the Nature Conservation Association

Espen Fjeld, senior adviser at the Norwegian Environmental Protection Agency and Nature Inspectorate, said the animals can be dangerous and sometimes need to be euthanized “as long as that does not endanger the survival of population. There are 30,000 walruses in the north Atlantic”

He said it’s far more important to take care of a species’ habitat – for example, by pausing oil and gas exploration in the Barents Sea – than trying to take care of one single animal that has wandered far from home.

Tell us what is your opinion on this topic? What is the best solution, when nature gets too close to popular touristic attractions?

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