Vanishing ice proving deadly for walruses



Posted on 12 September 2008  | 
Walruses crammed together on the Chutotka coast in far-eastern Russia
Walruses crammed together on the Chutotka coast in far-eastern Russia
© WWF Russia/Polar Bear Patrol/ V KavryEnlarge
Following the recent reports of polar bears swimming for their lives off Alaska, clear evidence has emerged in far-eastern Russia of how vanishing ice in the Arctic is having a catastrophic effect on walruses.

Until recently scattered ice was usually present each summer in the Chukchi Sea, off the north-eastern extremity of Asia, and walruses were able to rest on the ice.

But now the ice has retreated to the deep water zone, leaving the sea completely free of ice in the summer. The walruses cannot feed in such deep water so they are forced on to crowded haulout areas on beaches on the Chukotka coast.

These coastal haulouts are extremely crowded, leading to animals being killed when they stampede over each other. The extreme concentration of walrus herds also leads to a shortage of food and provides ideal conditions for infections to spread.

Last year more than 1,000 dead walruses were counted by WWF staff and volunteers on just 350 kilometres of coastline. The absence of ice in the vicinity means the seas are also rougher and as walruses swim further in these stormy seas to find food some are dying from exhaustion.
Walruses crammed together on the Chutotka coast in far-eastern Russia
Walruses crammed together on the Chutotka coast in far-eastern Russia
© WWF Russia/Polar Bear Patrol/ V Kavry Enlarge

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required
Donate to WWF

Your support will help us build a future where humans live in harmony with nature.