Arctic walrus spotted on Irish coast by five-year-old girl

Confused Arctic walrus is spotted in IRELAND for the first time in 17 years after ‘falling asleep on an iceberg and drifting across the Atlantic ocean’

  • Five-year-old Muireann Houlihan and her dad, Alan, spotted the walrus 
  • It was seen floundering on the coastal rocks of Valentia Island in County Kerry  
  • Experts say the juvenile walrus may have become stranded after falling asleep on an iceberg which floated southwards from Greenland  

An Arctic walrus has been spotted on the Atlantic coast of Ireland, the first time one of the animals has been seen in the country since 2004. 

The enormous animal was captured on video as it floundered on the rocks of Valentia Island, County Kerry, yesterday. 

Exactly how the cow-sized beast arrived in Ireland remains unknown but observers say the two-metre long animal looked visibly exhausted. 

It is possible the animal, which is thought to be a young adult, fell asleep on an iceberg that drifted south across the Atlantic from Greenland, one expert believes. 

The animal was captured on video as it floundered on the rocks of Valentia Island, County Kerry, yesterday

What are Arctic walruses?  

Adult walruses can weigh up to 1,900 kg (4,000 lbs).

The vast animals are longer than 2 metres (6.5ft) and can reach 3.6m (12 ft) long. 

They are a vulnerable species and have long tusks which they use to find food, often scallops. Tusks are often used in fights between the animals. 

Both the males and female have tusks.  

They are related to sea lions and seals, but are far more vast. 

They are find in the wild in the northern parts of the world, specifically around the North Pole, northern Russia and Greenland.

Dr Peter Richardson, head of ocean recovery at the Marine Conservation Society, told MailOnline: ‘It’s very unusual for one of these walruses to be this far south.

‘It’s a long way from home but it seems like a fit, fat, young walrus which may be capable of making it home. 

‘They are known to travel vast distances but it’s so unusual [for one to be this far south] that it’s hard to say how it will be.’

He added that there are plenty of molluscs for the walrus to feed on in the area it was spotted and it is possible the walrus is in the water, out of sight, but still in the vicinity.

‘People should report it to Irish Whale and Dolphin Group if they see it and not approach the animal as they are not the most friendly,’ Dr Richardson adds. 

‘They can be quite hard to spot in the water but it could still be around. It is well worth people keeping an eye out still.’  

Individuals of this species normally live around the North Pole, northern Russia and Greenland. The nearest population is in the waters of Greenland and Svalbard. 

The Irish Whale and Dolphin group (IWDG) estimates the walrus to be a young adult but it is not possible to determine the gender as both males and females have tusks.

Its tusks are only around 12 inches long, and a fully grown adult’s tusks can reach up to 40 inches long. 

The IWDG wrote on social media that this was only the third validated sighting of a walrus in Ireland since 1999.

It said: ‘The National Biodiversity Data Centre has 11 walrus records but the Natural History Museum suggest this number may be as high as 20 going back over several centuries. Either way, walrus sightings here are extremely rare.

‘Previous walrus sightings validated by IWDG are from April 3, 1999, near Old Head, Clew Bay, Co Mayo, and October 5, 2004, from Mulranny, also in Clew Bay.

‘In mid-February, a walrus was photographed off the Danish coast and comparisons of images leave open the possibility that they may be the same individual.

‘We would ask members of the public fortunate enough to see it to observe this wayward traveller from a safe distance and to give it the space it requires.’ 

The walrus was spotted by Alan Houlihan and his five-year-old daughter Muireann (pictured). Mr Houlihan captured footage of the animal on his phone

It was spotted by Alan Houlihan and his five-year-old daughter Muireann. Mr Houlihan captured footage of the animal on his phone. 

Other video was shared online and the animal’s presence was reported to the authorities.

Mr Houlihan told RTÉ Radio One’s Morning Ireland that he and his daughter were adventuring down by the beach when Muireann spotted something in the water. 

Video was shared online which was taken by local woman Ashley Quigley and the animal was also reported to the authorities. Exactly how the animal arrived in Ireland remains unknown but experts say the two-metre long, cow-sized beast looked visibly exhausted

Mr Houlihan told RTÉ Radio One’s Morning Ireland that he and his daughter were adventuring down by the beach when Muireann spotted something in the water

‘I thought it was a seal at first and we went down to the water to investigate and I took out the phone and started recording,’ he said. 

‘Next thing it was a walrus! And he breached out of the water and gave us a little show on the rocks — Muireann thought he was just having fun. It was just amazing. 

‘At first I didn’t [know it was a walrus] but within seconds I knew it was a walrus. It’s just the sheer size of it, it’s the size of a cow or a bull. I hadn’t seen anything like it before, in Ireland anyway.’    

An Arctic walrus has been spotted on the Atlantic coast of Ireland, the first time one of the animals has been seen in the country since 2004

Kevin Flannery, director of Dingle Oceanworld, told the Irish Independent: ‘He’s from the Arctic. I’d say what happened is he fell asleep on an iceberg and drifted off and then he was gone too far, out into the mid-Atlantic or somewhere like that down off Greenland possibly.’

Mr Flannery said the best thing for the walrus was rest and peace to regain energy ahead of a return north to his native land, a trip of hundreds of miles. 

Mr Houlihan said he returned to the area later in the day but the walrus had disappeared. 

Speaking on RTE he said he hoped the walrus was off eating scallops and recuperating. 

And Muireann has suggested two possible names for the walrus – Isabelle if it’s a girl, and Cian if it’s a boy.

‘She went home last night and she was drawing pictures of walruses. It was so adorable,’ added Mr Houlihan.

‘We are in lockdown so the kids have gone back to school today for the first time, so it made things a bit easier for them to go back in today with a news story.’ 

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