Massive pod of 3,000 walruses is spotted on Russian peninsula

Massive pod of 3,000 walruses is spotted on Russian peninsula, giving scientists hope that the ‘nearly threatened’ population is recovering

  • A drone spotted a halout of 3,000 walruses on the shore of the Kara Sea
  • A halout is a place of refuge for the animals to rest, socialize and mate  
  • These hangout are typically on sea ice, but warm climates are melting the ice
  • Seeing a large groups gives scientists hope that the population is recovering

A massive herd of walruses has been spotted on the shores of the Kara Sea where their habitat is under threat from shrinking ice and human activity.

Scientists say the pod has created a halout, which is a place of refuge where walruses congregate, reproduce and socialize.

The beach is located in a remote corner of Russia’s Yamal peninsula and researchers say they counted over 3,000 animals huddled together.

Walrus haulouts have traditionally been located on drifting sea ice or on Arctic islands.

But sea ice is shrinking due to warmer climate cycles and habitats are under threat from oil and gas exploration and more Arctic shipping.

However, scientists say the massive herd is encouraging because it could be a sign the population is recovering.

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A massive herd of walruses has been spotted on the shores of the Kara Sea where their habitat is under threat from shrinking ice and human activity. Scientists say the pod has created a halout, which is a place of refuge where walruses congregate, reproduce and socialize

Aleksander Sokolov, a senior Arctic researcher at Russia’s Academy of Science, said: ‘This haulout is unique because there are both female and male walruses, as well as calves of different age.’

Sovolov called the find a ‘unique open-air laboratory,’ allowing him and his team to to analyze thousands of walruses at a time.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) listed the species as ‘nearly threatened’ in 2016, estimating the total number of adult Atlantic walruses in the world at 12,500.

Before commercial hunting of them was banned internationally in the middle of the 20th century, their numbers were threatened by overharvesting for their blubber and ivory.

Walrus haulouts have traditionally been located on drifting sea ice or on Arctic islands. But sea ice is shrinking due to warmer climate cycles and habitats are under threat from oil and gas exploration and more Arctic shipping

Before commercial hunting of them was banned internationally in the middle of the 20th century, their numbers were threatened by overharvesting for their blubber and ivory

Andrei Boltunov, from the Marine Mammal Research and Expedition Center, said the Yamal haulout which was first discovered last year but only properly documented last month, showed that the Atlantic walrus population was recovering.

‘We want to believe that it’s a positive sign,’ said Boltunov, who said there was too little information for now to draw sweeping conclusions however.

According to Boltunov, the Kara Sea’s ice-free season has become longer in recent decades.

Scientists have taken DNA samples and fitted several walruses with satellite tags to monitor their movements for up to several months.

Scientists have taken DNA samples and fitted several walruses with satellite tags to monitor their movements for up to several months.

However, scientists say the massive herd is encouraging because it could be a sign the population is recovering

But Boltunov says much work was required to establish what made this particular Arctic beach so attractive for thousands of walruses and what steps could be taken to protect them.

Walruses are large marine predators that dine on a variety of invertebrates, such as crustaceans, octopuses and clams.

When they are not lounging, socializing and mating on land, these animals hunt for food by dragging themselves along the ocean floor.  

Female Pacific walruses and their calves in tend to spend the summer months far from shore. 

However in recent years, loss of summer sea ice over the continental shelf has forced many walruses to travel to the Arctic coasts of the US and Russia where they congregate on shore to rest. 

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