Peter is an independent international zoo consultant, critic and writer with over 50 years of work within zoos.
World Walrus Awareness Week
The Walrus Odobenus rosmarus is a well familiar species even though not many people have seen one. In the wild it may be found in two distinct populations. One in the North Pacific and the other in the North Atlantic. There are probably less than 80 in captivity worldwide held in around 40 collections.
It is likely that the first Walrus in captivity was one presented to the English Royal Court in 1608. It was a young animal and survived only a matter of weeks. Even today the survival rate of captive born calves is very poor. The gestation period is around 15 months of which 4 months are delayed implantation.
The first World Walrus Awareness Week was implemented by SeaWorld San Diego and took place in December 2016 and every December since then, though dates vary. In 2021 the week starts on December 6th. The aim is to draw the Worlds attention to the threats created by the Climate Change. The Walrus depends on ice to calf and even to travel. The ice is melting. Huge numbers have died by crushing as the animals compete for space.
Currently the wild populations are fairly stable and number around is unknown but thought to be between 200,000 and 250,000.
In 2021 November 24th was designated as World Walrus Day. The opportunity was then presented to count Walrus from space using satellite imagery. We will have a much better idea of numbers once data is processed.
First Meeting with the Walrus
Most people will have some familiarity with the Walrus even if they have never seen one. This could be through Lewis Carrols 'Through the Looking Glass'.
"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes--and ships--and sealing-wax--
Of cabbages--and kings--
And why the sea is boiling hot--
And whether pigs have wings."
Or perhaps in The Beatles Song "I am the Walrus"
"I am he as you are he as you are me
And we are all together
See how they run like pigs from a gun
See how they fly
I'm crying Sitting on a corn flake
Waiting for the van to come
Corporation T-shirt, stupid bloody Tuesday
Man you've been a naughty boy
You let your face grow long I am the egg man
They are the egg men
I am the walrus
Goo goo g'joob"
Many too will be familiar with 'Wally Walrus', a popular cartoon character from the 40's, 50's and 60's.
There is a North American Regional Studbook for the Walrus which is maintained by Indianapolis Zoo.
Walrus Awareness Week | SeaWorld San Diego’s involvement in Walrus Conservation Consortium
The Walrus was formerly hunted for its meat, blubber and ivory. I recall purchasing a number of Walrus tusks from a shop in the City of York back in the late 1960's. A friend had asked me to look out for such items for a museum he was building.
I don't recall how much I paid for them but as I was on a zookeepers wages it can't have been very much.