Oh, this is too bad. I would have like to have met Nereus. Breaking news from the Indianapolis Zoo:
We are very sad to report that our Pacific walrus Nereus has died from complications of a sudden and devastating illness. Nereus died yesterday afternoon during a medical procedure to treat his illiness, and the results of the necropsy performed last evening (the animal version of an autopsy) revealed that he suffered from a terminal condition caused by a very large mass that damaged his internal organs and compromised his spine, resulting in neurological problems. He will be very much missed by the entire Zoo family, including staff, members, visitors, donors, volunteers and friends.
Many, many people are posting pictures and memories to the Zoo’s Facebook page – if you ever met Nereus, or wish that you had, you should visit the page.
Turns out Nereus was a social media user with an amusing twitter feed @NereusWalrus
I had seen the image that accompanies this blog post before, but a little searching turned up the story that goes along with it…
…suddenly right in front of our boat the water exploded up and an enormous whiskered face launched up out of the water. He was so close that he put a front flipper up against the kayak and I could smell his breath. Walrus are HUGE, and those tusks are not small either! He dipped back under the water and I thought he was going to come up from under us and try tip us over.
This is an old blog post, from 2005, but the picture gives a great idea of how large a walrus is compared to a low-riding sea kayak. This encounter must have been frightening indeed.
My buddy Kevin who works for the NASA Earth Observatory, Twittered me a link to a WWF (World Wildlife Fund, not World Wrestling Federation) story about the recent haul-outs in Alaska and Russia. I have a post in drafts about that, but he also alerted me to the fact that the Today Show ran a piece about the haul-out and the retreat of sea ice. Since I don’t watch Today since I, you know, have a job during the day – I had no idea about this piece. It’s online though, and here’s the link.
Here is a link to a form letter to Congress, via Greenpeace, on behalf of the Pacific Walrus. You can customize the text of the letter, but the supplied text of the letter reads:
The Pacific walrus meets the criteria for listing under the Endangered Species Act and must be listed immediately if it’s to have a chance at survival and recovery.
An unprecedented number of walruses have hauled out on the North Slope of Alaska this summer because their sea ice habitat has retreated hundreds of miles away. Walruses that are forced to haul out on land have a harder time finding food and are more vulnerable to disturbances that could lead to stampeding and trampling mortalities.
The recently-released U.S. Geological Survey study shows a 40% chance that walrus will be on a pathway to extinction by the end of this century. As scary as those odds are, they are likely far too optimistic because the study relied on modeling that underestimates greenhouse gas emissions, global warming and rates of Arctic sea-ice loss.
The report also dismissed as negligible the impacts from reduced food supply for the walrus. Sea-ice loss in the Bering Sea is already leading to declines in the walrus’s bottom-dwelling prey; ocean acidification is making Arctic waters increasingly corrosive and potentially lethal to the clams and mussels it eats. Still, the USGS determined that these threats have negligible influences on the walrus’s future. The study would have found a significantly worse outlook for walruses if it had used more realistic assessments of these threats.
The Pacific walrus needs the full protections of the Endangered Species Act to survive into the coming century. Please list the Pacific walrus under the Endangered Species Act, designate critical habitat, and design and implement a recovery plan as soon as possible.
The Pacific Walrus International Database (PWID) is a comprehensive set of Pacific walrus biological data collected by several participating organizations in the Bering and Chukchi Seas. Data compilation was focused on abundance and distribution data, however, other types of data are included. Data categories include: land and ice haulout counts, sex/age composition, reproduction, mortality, harvest statistics, and morphometry. As of September 1998, the database includes reference to 33 data sets. The PWID includes metadata for every data set, but for some data sets the data may have been retained by the data owner.
There are a lot of research-oriented walrus resources here. Note being familiar with this type of government-run site, I’m impressed with the amount of data available. Looks like a solid resource for anyone whose interest in Walrus requires some deep data.
If your interest runs more towards conservation and endangered species concerns, you should visit the Pacific Walrus page at the Center for Biological Diversity. Here is the mission statement from their website:
At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature — to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.
A new federal report today finds there’s a 40-percent chance that the Pacific walrus, a species imperiled by loss of sea ice due to global warming, will be on a pathway to extinction by the end of the century.
Global warming, regardless of your political position on the issue, or whether it represents a (geologic) short-term change or a long term shift in the planet’s climate, is a serious threat to all cold climate large animals, particularly our beloved Walrus and the polar bear.