A small herd of walruses set off towards Moscow
Several animals, tagged with GPS trackers on Novaya Zemlya last summer, passed the Dvina delta on the night of March 27th and continued to move south.
“We have been observing this group of mammals since last season when suddenly several weeks ago they started to move purposefully towards the Northern Dvina River, with obvious intentions to go deep into the continent. They passed Arkhangelsk at night and now they are heading south. We are closely monitoring the situation, although it is still too early to draw any final conclusions,” - says the WWF-Russia project coordinator Semyon Varin. - Such behavior could be caused by serious underwater noises within walruses’ habitats, construction works on their rookeries, large-scale water pollution, or some unknown factors triggered by climate change, which are more evident in the Arctic than elsewhere. Walruses are known to leave rookeries because of human coastal activities, but this is the first time in history when walruses entered a river.”
According to the scientists, if walruses continue to move in the chosen direction at the same speed, then in a week and a half they would reach Moscow.
“We are especially concerned about the possible collision of walruses with hydraulic structures, in particular with a lock of the Northern Dvina Canal, – added Varin. – If we assume that the animals have retained the genetic memory of the White Sea waterway, which connected Moscow and Arkhangelsk till the 17th century, then in a few days they would reach Lake Kubenskoye, where we plan to catch up with them and escort them, wherever they will go".
The marine mammal specialist group, led by Professor Varin, is expected to arrive at the meeting point by Saturday. WWF-Russia appeals to local residents when meeting walruses on the river, not to frighten them with camera flashes so that the scientists could assess the physical condition of the animals.