Seal of approval for Munster coast as walrus returns to our shores

Wally has visited the Scilly Isles, Wales, France and Spain before making his way back to Ireland
Seal of approval for Munster coast as walrus returns to our shores

The walrus drifting around Waterford today. Picture: Carlow Weather

The giant walrus which has been on a tour of the coasts of Ireland, Wales, and France has returned to Munster. 

'Wally' delighted nature lovers when he appeared on rocks at Valentia Island back in March. It was thought that he drifted across the Atlantic from the North Pole after falling asleep on an iceberg

At the time, the director of Dingle Oceanworld, Kevin Flannery, said that this was the first confirmed sighting of a walrus here.

He is estimated to be of a similar size to a dairy cow or a bull. 

Then he left and turned up in Tenby, Wales later that month. 

Welsh Marine Life Rescue reported a sighting of him on the South Pembrokeshire Coast.

At that stage, volunteers and other organisations including the RSCPA and UK Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme monitored the walrus and said it looked underweight but otherwise uninjured.

However, his travels took a bit of a negative turn then as he seems to have been hit by a boat near France in May.

There were sightings of Wally at Les Sables d'Olonne in western France.

The town's Facebook page said he was being cared for by experts after he was "slightly injured and stressed after colliding with a boat".

Alouette.fr noted that he was "stressé après un choc avec un bateau" —stressed after a 'shock' with a boat.

Wally the walrus visits France. Picture: Ville des Sables d'Olonne
Wally the walrus visits France. Picture: Ville des Sables d'Olonne

This wasn't the bull walrus' only encounter with boats — but the boats typically came off the worst after he boarded them. 

Boat owners at the Scilly Isles discovered in June that Wally had boarded a number of vessels and had damaged or sank them. However, keen to make him feel somewhat welcome, a team of people from British Divers Marine Life Rescue, the Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust, the Cornwall Seal Group Research Trust and the St Mary's Harbour Team constructed a special pontoon for Wally on the islands 28 miles (45km) off Cornwall. 

They said it provides "something that he returns to, allowing him to rest, gain strength and ultimately leave Scilly to continue his journey home".

Wally had also visited Spain as part of his 'grand tour': He was spotted 'in good health' close to the mouth of the River Nervion in Bilbao, Spain in early June. 

Now, he's headed back northwards from there and is off the coast of Waterford. 

Holidaymakers spotted him there today and he's looking great altogether. 

The giant walrus relaxing on a boat by the Munster coast today. Picture: Carlow Weather
The giant walrus relaxing on a boat by the Munster coast today. Picture: Carlow Weather

It is believed that he may be making his way 'home' to the Arctic.

Seal Rescue Ireland has asked that people don't approach the walrus — "he is a protected species. Observe quietly from a minimum of 300m and keep dogs on a lead".

They also ask: "Do not publicly disclose the location of the sighting to avoid attracting crowds to him."

The registered charity notes: "Remember that this is a very sensitive species, and he's a very long way from his Arctic home."

Report sightings to SRI's 24/7 Rescue Hotline on 0871955393.

"As sea ice melts due to climate change, Arctic species, such as walruses, are losing habitat and may be forced to explore new areas."

Note: we have not used pictures identifying the exact location of the walrus for this reason. 

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