Wildlife and environment
Gavrilo: Walrus population at Franz Josef Land reached pre-hunt level
© RIA Novosti. Vera Kostamo

Gavrilo: Walrus population at Franz Josef Land reached pre-hunt level

The Atlantic walrus population at Franz Josef Land Archipelago has now approached the pre-hunting level, TASS reported citing Maria Gavrilo, deputy director for research at Russian Arctic National Park.

"If we take the number of walruses observed directly on the coast, keeping in mind that there are more haulouts out there, and use the Spitsbergen (Svalbard) archipelago scaling ratio, we get a population of 9,000-11,000. <…> Today, the walrus population at Franz Josef Land has most likely reached its pre-hunting level," Gavrilo said.

The Atlantic walrus population decreased dramatically as a result of hunting in the 19th-20th centuries. The large number of islands (192) and the archipelago's inaccessibility make counting populations at Franz Josef Land complicated. "If we take the numbers we got during the direct observations in the beginning of the season, when we visited as many haulouts as possible as there was no ice and all walruses were at the breeding grounds on the coast, the total number will be lower than the minimum level. We counted about 3,000-3,500 walruses during the direct observations at the haulouts," the researcher said.

The appearance of female walruses with calves at Spitsbergen during the past several years, which is believed to be unusual, is another sign of an increase in the walrus population. "Males and females are found on different grounds, as there is a gender segregation tendency. The fact that the population is exporting some of its animals, making them move to Spitsbergen, means that it is growing," Gavrilo said.