The walrus mystery
Sea ice is melting, and industrial development is coming to the Arctic. What does it mean for the mighty tusked walrus ? You can help WWF better understand walruses and protect their icy home.
Help save the walrus
Climate refugees - 35,000 walruses ashore
Haul out ! In Alaska, this enormous group of walruses were forced ashore by a lack of sea ice. In the past decade, other unprecedented crowds of Pacific walruses have been spotted on shore.
Normally, female walruses and their young prefer smaller crowds. They rest on floating sea ice, and dive to the sea floor for food. But this year, the ice was too far from shore in this region. Large haulouts can be deadly for walruses. The herds quickly run out of nearby food. And despite their size, walruses are easily frightened. A stampede can easily crush young walruses.
Haulouts also affect people. When haulouts occur near human communities, they can attract unwanted neighbours - polar bears looking for a meal. In Russia, WWF is working with communities near haulout sites to keep both polar bears and people safe.
Collecting walrus DNA
Imagine crawling on the ground, high-tech crossbow in hand, silently stalking your quarry. Your goal: collect a small DNA sample from a hulking 1000 kg walrus.
It’s not easy - the endless summer sun in the Arctic means you have no cover of darkness. And despite their size, walruses are nervous animals. One wrong move, and the whole herd will go splashing into the water. Once you’re in position, you line up your shot. Bang! The crossbow captures a small plug of walrus skin. The walrus looks around, tusks his neighbour in retaliation, and goes back to sleep.
The goal: Find out if the walrus of the Laptev Sea are genetically unique from the Pacific walruses to the east, and the Atlantic walruses to the west. If they are, Russia will need to consider special protection for this population.
The walrus’ world is changing fast
Climate change isn’t just melting the walrus’ home - it’s introducing new threats.
Industrial development is heating up in the Arctic. Ships can more easily navigate ice-free waters in Canada and Russia, and oil and gas projects are moving north all around the pole. Walruses face toxic spills and disturbances to haulouts.
You can support WWF’s work to keep Arctic development from endangering walruses. Your support also helps WWF study walrus populations, so we can advise governments on the best way to protect them.
Help safeguard walruses today
Walruses have long been a focus in WWF's on-the-ground research and conservation projects in the Arctic. You can help by donating to our conservation work today.