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Home* News and Stories → “Wild­life spe­cia­lists” bark­ed at wal­rus­ses

“Wild­life spe­cia­lists” bark­ed at wal­rus­ses

Pro­ba­b­ly, you have to read the head­line twice to belie­ve it: yes, peo­p­le were grun­ting at wal­rus­ses, not the other way around. This remar­kab­le event is said to have hap­pen­ed on July 16 at Tor­ell­ne­set in Hin­lo­pen Strait during a pas­sen­ger landing from MS Expe­di­ti­on.

A guest wro­te a let­ter later to Sys­sel­man­nen and Sval­bard­pos­ten, becau­se 2 “wild­life spe­cia­lists” from the ship dis­tur­bed wal­rus­ses to achie­ve “good” pho­to­graphs. The 2 “spe­cia­lists” are said to have approa­ched wal­rus­ses in shal­low water to distances of about 2 met­res and then to have “bark­ed” and “grun­ted”, assu­ma­b­ly to make the wal­rus­ses move for “bet­ter” pho­to­graphs. Later, other staff jus­ti­fied this beha­vious by say­ing the “spe­cia­lists” knew what they were doing.

Accor­ding to the Sval­bard envi­ron­men­tal act, it is for­bidden to “hunt, catch, harm or kill” ani­mals. The Sys­sel­man­nen will inves­ti­ga­te if the inci­dent is a breach of legal regu­la­ti­ons. In any case, an acti­ve approach of less than 30 met­res distance is not allo­wed accor­ding to AECO-regu­la­ti­ons. AECO is an orga­ni­sa­ti­on of ship-based arc­tic tour ope­ra­tors with, among­st others, the pur­po­se of self-regu­la­ti­on. To achie­ve this, AECO has crea­ted gui­de­lines which are often stric­ter than legal requi­re­ments. The­se gui­de­lines are bin­ding for mem­bers such as the ope­ra­tor of the MS Expe­di­ti­on, who has announ­ced inter­nal inves­ti­ga­ti­ons and con­firm­ed a gene­ral dedi­ca­ti­on to high envi­ron­men­tal stan­dards. AECO is now con­side­ring to dis­cuss the inci­dent on their annu­al mem­ber mee­ting.

In any case, an approach to about 2 met­res distance to wal­rus­ses for tou­ristic pur­po­ses is defi­ni­te­ly not accep­ta­ble. It is also com­ple­te­ly unneces­sa­ry: wal­rus­ses, usual­ly rather lazy and inac­ti­ve on shore, are often lively and curious in the water. It is not too unu­su­al that curious wal­rus­ses them­sel­ves approach peo­p­le who are stan­ding on land near the water­line to clo­se distances – wit­hout any dis­tur­ban­ce of wild­life by bar­king or grun­ting or wha­te­ver.

It is usual­ly easy to see on pho­to­graphs if ani­mals have been dis­tur­bed. Such pho­tos are today hard­ly accept­ed any­mo­re by pro­fes­sio­nal publishers.

Wal­rus­ses can be very curious when swim­ming: the­se ani­mals deci­ded free­ly to approach a group of tou­rists, who were not moving, wit­hout any dis­tur­ban­ce of anyo­ne or any­thing. An acti­ve approach of tou­rists to such clo­se distance is neither allo­wed nor accep­ta­ble.

Walrusses and people

Source: Sval­bard­pos­ten



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last modification: 2014-10-06 · copyright: Rolf Stange