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Norway’s walruses return from near-extinction

Words by Smiley Team

Huge clusters of walruses have been sighted in Norway 70 years after the species faced near-extinction due to ivory hunting.

The population of walruses in Norway has increased after the Norwegian government made commercial hunting illegal in 1952.

In the decades following the ban, the walruses have proved resilient and bounced back in great numbers. In 2006, researchers counted over 2,500 walruses in Svalbard, and the latest count in 2018 recorded over 5,500.

“The walrus is like a mythical creature,” said Colleen Reichmuth, a research scientist, according to Smithsonian Magazine. “They’re like no other animal on earth. Their closest living relatives are separated by almost 20 million years.” 

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Around the world, walruses are widely distributed but inhabit specific types of area, as they need areas of shallow, open water to get access to food, and suitable ice or land for hauling out.

The prehistoric ancestors of today’s walruses originally resided in tropical climates. As they moved to the colder parts of the world we associate them with today, the walruses grew long ivory tusks to defend themselves from animals like adult male polar bears, and became covered in thick, bristled skin to keep them warm. 

With these adaptations, the walruses up in Svalbard lived a good life - that is until poachers singled them out for their precious Ivory tusks. 

Hopefully, Norway's hunting ban will influence other conservation of near-extinct animals.

Inspired to act?

DONATE: You can donate to support WWF’s work to keep Arctic development from putting walruses in danger.

SUPPORT: WWF and British Antarctic Survey (BAS) are running a project called Walrus from Space, in which you can become a ‘walrus detective’ by spending only thirty minutes searching for walruses in thousands of satellite observation images taken from space. The project is working to conduct a census of Atlantic and Laptev walrus populations over five years, which will help scientists to notice changes over time.

This article aligns with the following UN SDGs

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