Walruses: Going with the floes?
© Alexey Ebel / WWF-Canon
Diminishing sea ice means polar bears and walrus are spending more time on land. Will this lead to more conflict between the two species? GEOFF YORK examines the evidence.
In this issue
Walruses are an iconic symbol of the Arctic, culturally important to Indigenous populations and critical to subsistence hunters. But walrus herds in all of the circumpolar countries are under threat.Download this issue of The Circle
Despite occurring over a vast area and having healthy population sizes in many regions, walruses face an uncertain future. MELANIE LANCASTER and TOM ARNBOM look at conservation actions to safeguard walruses from threats to their survival.
The walrus is an emblematic species of the Arctic. They are also highly social, gregarious mammals that rely on vocal cues. But researcher ISABELLE CHARRIER has found increasing noise pollution is having an adverse effect on the pinnipeds.
Keeping track of walruses
Counting walruses is difficult, complex and labour intensive usually requiring repeat visits to haulout sites. Even then there are numerous variables swaying the numbers. MIKE HAMMILL says good record keeping is integral to good management of declining herds.
The global view of walruses
An introduction to the global walrus population: status, trends and threats
Diminishing returns for walruses
Human activity coupled with diminishing sea ice means walrus herds are being forced to look for new platforms for feeding, mating and resting. MADS PETER HEIDE-JØRGENSEN says walrus distributions around Greenland have changed alongside past and present human activities and climate change.
Industry in walrus territory
Pacific walruses are segregated by gender for much of the year. Adult females and young follow the ice edge as it recedes through the Chukchi Sea in summer and they return to the Bering Sea in winter, while most males stay in the Bering Sea year-round. XAVIER MOUY says studies are underway to assess the effects of industrial activities on walruses.
Pacific walruses in Russia
As climate change continues to adversely affect this important shared resource, ANATOLY KOCHNEV says effective research, monitoring and management of walrus populations will rely on the joint efforts of both countries.