Walruses crammed together on the Chutotka coast in far-eastern Russia / ©: WWF Russia/Polar Bear Patrol/ V Kavry

Walrus

The walrus is easily recognised by its sheer size and magnificent tusks. It is a keystone species in Arctic marine ecosystems. The walrus was once threatened by commercial hunting, but today the biggest danger it faces is climate change.

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  • scientific name

    Odobenus rosmarus

  • weight

    400 to 1800 kg

  • length

    2.2 to 3.6 m

  • population

    Atlantic ~18,000, Pacific ~200,000 & Laptev ~5,000

  • Status

    Data deficient; CITES appendix I

    IUCN

  • Amazing tusks

    The walrus uses its tusks to keep breathing holes in the ice open, to fight, and to haul itself out of the water on to an ice floe

 / ©: Mirko Thiessen / Wikipedia
Map of walrus distribution
© Mirko Thiessen / Wikipedia

Threats to walruses

Retreating sea ice, deadly stampedes

The retreat of sea ice caused by climate change forces walruses ashore, with deadly consequences As arctic sea ice recedes far from the Russian and Alaskan coasts due to warmer temperatures, walruses – including females and their babies – are forced to take refuge on land.

The animals congregate in large groups, known as "haul-outs". These mass congregations are dangerous and can lead to violent stampedes that are often deadly, especially to young walruses.
Walrus haulout. / ©: WWF-Russia / Viktor Nikiforov
Walrus haulout.
© WWF-Russia / Viktor Nikiforov

What WWF is doing for walruses

  • WWF works with partners around the circumpolar north to preserve the Arctic's rich biodiversity and combat threats from climate change, toxics and illegal fishing.
  • WWF's work on climate change aims to cut global greenhouse gas emissions to prevent dangerous climate change, and aims to help species such as the walrus adapt to changes which are already occurring.

Walrus videos from WWF

Did you know?

    • All male walruses, and some female walruses, have a large air sac in their throat which helps keep their head above water and also makes a bell-like sound during mating.
    • The tusks of a walrus can reach 1m in length.
    • The word walrus is thought to be derived from an Old Norse word meaning "horse-whale".

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