I just thought this story was cute...goo goo g'joob, y'all... [img]images/icons/wink.gif[/img]
Sep 29, 9:16 AM EDT
Lost Walrus Visits Norway Beach
By DOUG MELLGREN
Associated Press Writer
OSLO, Norway (AP) -- A giant walrus has been delighting residents of the Norwegian capital during a rare visit as he lolls around on a sandy beach that is, for him, the sunny south.
Experts say the tusked walrus, possibly a young male, is more accustomed to the harsh, wintry climate of the Norwegian Arctic around the Svalbard archipelago, some 1,275 miles north of Oslo.
"It's very rare," University of Oslo marine biology professor Asbjoern Voellestad said of the visit. He knew of only one other such event in the last 15 or 20 years.
"He's definitely lost," he said, adding the mammal likely got separated from his herd and wandered off.
Witnesses said the animal appeared to be at least 6 1/2 feet long. Walruses can grow as long as 9 1/2 feet.
Even though Norway is in Europe's far north, and an autumn chill has set in, "he's used to a much harsher climate. For him, this is a trip to the warm south," Voellestad said.
The bewildered walrus swam all the way up the fjord, some 60 miles from the open ocean. And the swim home would mean at least a 2,200-mile trek since he would have to round Norway's southern tip before heading north.
On Sunday, the walrus became an unwitting tourist attraction as it rested on Fornebu beach on the outskirts of Oslo. It seemed relaxed about people approaching, lifting its head and rolling from one side to the other. Mussels that make the bulk of a walrus' diet are plentiful in the fjord, so he's not expected to go hungry.
On land, walrus are slow because of their girth, but in the water, they are fast swimmers.
Since walruses are highly social animals, Voellestad said loneliness will probably force the animal to resume the search for his herd.
There are an estimated 1,000 walruses around Svalbard, and as many as 250,000 worldwide. They've been a protected species in the Nordic country of 4.5 million since 1952.
Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved.