An 1800-pound walrus dubbed Wally has been sightseeing away from the Arctic since March, when he was first spotted in the waters around Kerry after traveling nearly 2500 miles along the coast of western Europe. Only a handful of walruses have been seen in Ireland. No one is quite sure why Wally made the journey, although theories about finding food or even falling asleep on an iceberg and waking up in Ireland abound. But now that he’s there, he’s making his presence known.
Because walruses are semi-aquatic and come to land to rest, Wally has been able to pull himself onto small vessels, leading to significant damage and at least two capsizing events. Boat owners have been advised to try and build makeshift barriers preventing his boarding. There’s also concern he may board an occupied boat or even prevent an emergency vehicle from responding.
The habits of this burly visitor have drawn the attention of the British Divers Marine Life Rescue, an animal welfare group. The BDMLR has constructed a makeshift pontoon for Wally, which resembles a floating couch. Boaters want the walrus to opt for the seaworthy furniture, rather than their watercraft, when he wants to relax. So far, it's worked: Wally climbed on it during a stay in the Isles of Scilly in July. With Wally now in Crookhaven, locals hope he’ll continue using one supplied by the Seal Rescue Ireland team.
Although humane deterrents have been attempted, Wally doesn’t seem terribly bothered. After airhorns were used a few times to keep him away from the harbor or boat slipway, he simply got used to them. Experts also believe Wally was fed from boat occupants at one time, making him agreeable to boarding.
Despite—or perhaps because of—his status as an adorable sea terror, locals have taken to monetizing Wally’s popularity. In Wales, where Wally lounged for weeks, souvenirs are available, and pubs serve Wally-branded beer on tap. Officials are also following Wally to make sure sightseers don’t disrupt his natural behaviors.
Owing to risks of sedation and the difficulty in maneuvering a nearly one-ton animal, forced relocation back to the Arctic isn’t being considered. Wally is expected to continue up to the western seaboard. Until then, locals are being advised to keep their distance from Wally, but when he's busy doing things like balancing a starfish on his nose, not paying attention is easier said than done.
[h/t Irish Examiner]