Photographer who befriended Freya the walrus condemns Norway for her ‘murder’

·2-min read
Freya the walrus, who was euthanised by Oslo authorities  (Tor Erik Schrøder / NTB)
Freya the walrus, who was euthanised by Oslo authorities (Tor Erik Schrøder / NTB)

A wildlife photographer who befriended Freya the walrus when she made her home in Shetland has condemned her ‘murder’ - after she was killed by authorities in Oslo.

Freya was euthanised on Sunday after the public failed to take notice of warnings to keep their distance from her.

The walrus rose to fame after clambering on to boats to sunbathe - sometimes sinking them – and was often pursued by selfie-hunters and paddle boarders.

But officials in Oslo said the walrus, who weighs 600kg, had become a threat to human safety because people did not keep their distance from her in the water.

Freya turned up in Shetland in December last year where she made her home on a salmon pen at a fish farm at Aith Ness, before moving to a beach at Muckle Roe.

The wandering walrus also travelled to Northumberland, Wales, the Netherlands and Germany, before arriving in Oslo last month.

Wildlife photographer, cameraman and founder of Shetland Wildlife, Hugh Harrop, befriended Freya and was outraged over her killing.

Mr Harrop said: “It’s absolutely abhorrent and unbelievable that a wild animal is being murdered due to human behaviour.

“It is not the behaviour of the animal that is at fault. It’s the Norwegian government not being able to control people.”

Freya the walrus sunbathes on a boat in Oslo Fjord, Norway, on 19 July, 2022. (NTB/AFP via Getty Images)
Freya the walrus sunbathes on a boat in Oslo Fjord, Norway, on 19 July, 2022. (NTB/AFP via Getty Images)

Mr Harrop contrasted the treatment of Freya in Norway to that she received around Britain, where volunteers helped to keep the animal and the public at safe distance from each other.

He said Freya should have been anaesthetised and moved to the nearest walrus colony, which is around a three-hour flight from Oslo.

Mr Harrop said: “The outrage surrounding Freya’s murder is warranted.

“We can’t change the past, we can’t bring Freya back, but lessons have to be learned.”

Mr Harrop pointed to the rescue of a sperm whale in Shetland after it came dangerously close to the shore for ten days.

Boats managed to coax the animal into deeper waters after a six-hour rescue through hail and snow in April.

For a week, a young female walrus nicknamed Freya has enamoured Norwegians by basking in the sun of the Oslo fjord (NTB/AFP via Getty Images)
For a week, a young female walrus nicknamed Freya has enamoured Norwegians by basking in the sun of the Oslo fjord (NTB/AFP via Getty Images)

He added: “That was a massive effort that involved salmon farmers and conservationists coming together.

“With all the resources of the Norwegian government, why couldn’t they do the same?

“What they did should have been a last resort.”

Head of Norway’s fisheries directorate Frank Bakke-Jensen said the decision was taken on a “basis of a global evaluation of the persistent threat to human security”.

The directorate also said the walrus “seemed stressed by the massive attention and the welfare of the animal was compromised”.

Mr Bakke-Jensen added: “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.”