WALRUS DAY. WWF-RUSSIA LAUNCHES A PROJECT TO STUDY WALRUS ROOKERIES
Based on expert estimates, the Atlantic walrus is considered to be one of the most vulnerable inhabitants of the Russian Arctic. It is primarily threatened by the rapidly shrinking Arctic ice cap due to climate change. Besides, oil companies have become increasingly active in the recent years, coupled with the growing number of vessels and the booming Arctic tourism. At the same time, the Atlantic walrus remains poorly studied and does not attract as much attention from the public as, for instance, the polar bear.
In order to study and preserve the northern Atlantic walrus grouping, WWF-Russia is launching a new research project on the Bolshiye Oranskiye Islands.
Bolshiye Oranskiye Islands are two islands in the Barents Sea where female walruses rear their calves. Here, baby walruses build up strength and learn how to live and survive in their world. The rookery is comfortable for females and the offspring. The flat shores are shielded from the wind and the waves: the clumsy on land walruses can conveniently come out of the sea and have some rest. It is easy to find food here, as the sea bed around the islands is rife with mollusks. Since the islands are hard to access for humans, the walruses feel safe here.
It is presumed that males and females spend winters on the ice in the Pechora Sea, moving to the islands in the beginning of summer. As opposed to females, the majority of adult males prefer not to leave the Pechora Sea, staying on their favorite Vaygach, Matveev, Kolguyev and other islands instead. It remains unclear at what time females leave the Pechora Sea and head north, which routes they use or where they feed and give birth to offspring. As for the project outcomes, the researchers hope to obtain unique data regarding the most vulnerable Atlantic walrus grouping including females with their calves. As a result, it will be possible to set special rules for tourists visiting the rookeries on the Oranskiye Islands as well as to protect the important routes used by female walruses from noise and maritime traffic. It will be thus possible to reduce the level of anxiety in these animals.
The three-year project is scheduled for launch in 2020. The fundraising
campaign is currently being rolled out. The budget for the first year amounts
to RUB 5,250,000. The major part of the funds is planned to be collected with
the help of Russian supporters.
The project will be implemented together with the Russian Arctic National Park and the professionals of the Marine Mammal Research & Expedition Center and the Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution. The research results will be published on the websites of WWF-Russia and the Russian Arctic.