This old girl is 20-years-old and has survived a lot. She has managed to see many of her babies make it into adulthood and avoided the stamping flippers of hundreds of terrified walruses on their stampede towards the water. But she remembers things not being so crowded when she was younger. It’s not that there were less of them, it’s because they had more space. The ice is disappearing and she worries what will happen when it’s gone.
There are two subspecies of walrus who live in different parts of the Arctic; the Atlantic and the Pacific. Both species are massive, covered in large amounts of blubber and host large tusks. A Pacific male, the largest of the subspecies, can weigh as much as 2,000kg. Their blubber is incredibly important for their survival, keeping them nice and warm in their chilly home. Both males and females have large tusks surrounded by whiskers. The tusks are very useful and help to pull them out of the water and are handy weapons when fighting.
Babies are born able to swim. They are still very reliant on their mother, nursing for a year but staying with her for up to 5. Their mother’s milk is very high in fat and protein, giving it the best start possible to grow big and strong. Mothers are incredibly protective of their babies. If she feels threatened, she will pick up her calf with her flippers and hold it to her chest before diving into the water to escape.
When they are not breeding, walruses migrate from the ice to rocky beaches or outcrops to feed, which can become very crowded. Tens of thousands of walruses can be found, and tempers can get high. They are highly susceptible to any little noise or disturbance. If a walrus gets scared it can start a stampede with everyone rushing towards the safety of the water.
In the 18th and 19th century walruses were a good target for sealers and whalers, bringing the Atlantic walrus close to local extinction. Commercial harvesting is now illegal yet Chukchi, Yupik and Inuit peoples are allowed to kill a few each summer as it is an important source of nutrition for them. There are also regulated hunts each year but the sustainability of these is difficult to determine. The biggest threat to walrus is climate change. As the sea ice melts, Pacific walruses are forced to rest on land further away from their feeding grounds, creating larger and larger gatherings that can be fatal. For the Atlantic walrus, the melting ice means an influx of shipping, tourism, and industry. And also, a lot of noise. This is a big threat as these spooked walruses will see more and more stampedes.
HOW TO HELP
Based off real animals that Gillie and Marc met while travelling, the public will be able to meet individual animals.
With public art, more people will come into contact with these sculptures, will stop and consider them, will take a photograph, and will discuss this with their friends and family. Through this increased exposure, the message of love, family, and conservation will be spread much further than any piece of art in a gallery ever could. It will bring people into close contact and will help them to fall in love. With love comes a greater urge to want to create a change and save all endangered animals.
The sculpture will be aligned with the hashtags #LoveTheLast to raise unparalleled awareness about the sculpture’s cause across the globe.
To help protect these animals, please donate to the WWF: https://www.wwf.sg/