The summer meltback of the Arctic Ocean ice to the smallest extent in modern history wiped out the ice floes used by Pacific walruses as resting and hunting platforms over shallow water, forcing an extraordinary congregation of the tusked behemoths along the Russian Chukchi coast, according to a report by the World Wildlife Fund.
In a phenomenon first reported in the Russian Arctic a few years ago, something like 40,000 walruses hauled out near Ryrkarphy village on Kozehvnikov Cape, on the Chukotka Peninsula west of Alaska, according to an Oct. 10 dispatch posted online by WWF Russia.
The unprecedented gathering prompted Russian conservationists to push for some sort of nature preserve, and education, to protect the animals from hunting and harassment, the WWF release stated.
“Because of climate change, nowadays ice almost disappears from the Chukotka and East Siberian seas in summer”, says Viktor Nikiforov, WWF-Russia Regional Programmes Director.
“Multiyear Arctic ice moves northward, which means that in the coming years new haul-outs will appear on Chukotka Arctic coast. Walruses become exhausted after swimming hundreds of kilometers from pack ice to the coast, without a chance to rest. The sea without ice cover has frequent storms, which may lead to deaths of a large number of young walruses. Our common goal is to help walruses survive in this difficult time”.