Celebrity walrus euthanised despite offer to relocate her: 'It's nuts'

EXCLUSIVE: Days before the world-famous walrus Freya was euthanised by Norwegian authorities, an international conservation team volunteered to relocate her.

In the weeks leading up to her death, the charismatic walrus was drawing huge crowds as she basked in the sun at an Oslo fjord.

Fearing she could injure someone, the country’s fisheries directorate warned tourists to stay away and threatened to euthanise her to protect public safety.

Two images of Freya the walrus. One in close up with her head out of the water. The other of her lounging on a boat.
Freya the walrus was euthanised by Norway on Sunday. Source: Reuters / Getty

Concerned by the escalation in language, conservationists OneWhale emailed the fisheries directorate in both English and Norwegian offering the services of its scientists and expert animal carers.

“We want to help keep the option of relocation favourable, and therefore offer our help for relocation," OneWhale wrote on Thursday (local time).

"We have members who are experienced in transporting marine mammals at your disposal."

OneWhale was initially founded to protect escaped Russian spy whale Hvaldimir, and has established links with the fisheries directorate.

Speaking with Yahoo News Australia, OneWhale founder Regina Crosby said she also offered to provide a safety team to enforce a barrier between Freya and the public.

With summer drawing to an end, this would have enabled the walrus to coexist until she migrated elsewhere or the crowds dispersed.

Ms Crosby had been optimistic the directorate would respond positively to the offer, so the decision to kill Freya on Sunday left her stunned.

"It's nuts. They could have just waited," she said.

"She didn’t do anything to anyone. She was just hanging out."

Norway claims relocation was 'not a viable option'

Norway’s fisheries directorate said its lethal decision was "based on an overall assessment of the continued threat to human safety". There had also been a number of complaints about her damaging boats.

Yahoo News Australia understands the directorate received multiple offers to help manage Freya.

This included liaising with the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research, who told NBC "moving the walrus would be a difficult process, also because tranquillising includes a risk of it drowning."

Freya became an online sensation after videos of her attempting to lounge on boats went viral. Source: Reuters
Freya became an online sensation after videos of her attempting to lounge on boats went viral. Source: Reuters

Ultimately the directorate concluded relocation was “not a viable option”.

"We carefully examined all the possible solutions. We concluded that we could not guarantee the wellbeing of the animal by any of the means available," directorate head Frank Bakke-Jensen said in a statement.

He added, "We have sympathies for the fact that the decision can cause a reaction from the public, but I am firm that this was the right call."

Outpouring of grief after celebrity walrus killed

The 600kg walrus had been making headlines since June 17, when she was first photographed in Oslo.

Video of her bulky body lounging on sailboats struggling to support her weight were shared widely on social media.

The decision to euthanise Freya has been widely condemned by high-profile animal advocates.

"This represents everything wrong with our attitude towards wildlife," zoologist Megan McCubbin wrote on Twitter.

"What is wrong with this world right now? Savages. I’m so depressed," UK TV presenter Chris Packham added.

Marine protection group Blue Planet Society compared the outcome to the killing of Cecil the lion, warning "Norway should expect an avalanche of outrage".

Siri Martinsen from Norwegian conservation group told local media the decision to kill Freya had been rushed.

Norway's fisheries directorate has been contacted for comment.

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