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Latin name: Odobenus rosmarus
Family: Walrus

Walrus is a marine mammal, the only modern species of the walrus family (Odobenidae) traditionally attributed to the pinniped group (Latin Pinnipedia). One of the largest representatives of pinnipeds, in terms of body size among pinnipeds, is inferior only to the sea elephants. The areas of these species do not intersect, that is, the walrus is the largest of the pinnipeds in its habitat.


A large sea animal with very thick skin. The upper canines are extremely developed, elongated and directed downward; A very wide muzzle is seated with numerous thick, stiff, flattened whiskers (whiskers), they are at the walrus on the upper lip of 14 rows. There are no external ears, little eyes. Very thick skin is covered with short adjoining yellowish-brown hair, but with age, they become smaller, and in old walruses the skin is almost completely naked. The limbs are more suitable for movement on land than for real seals, and walruses can walk and not crawl; The bases are calloused. The tail is rudimentary.


According to the latest estimate, based on the results of the global count of the number conducted in 1990, the current population of the Pacific walrus is about 200 thousand individuals. Most of the population of the Pacific walrus spends summer to the north of the Bering Strait, in Chukchi Sea Along the northern coast of eastern Siberia, near Wrangel Island, in the Beaufort Sea along the northern coast of Alaska and also occurs in the waters between these places. A small number of males are found in summer in the Anadyr Gulf, on the southern coast of the Chukotka Peninsula in Siberia, and also in the Bristol Bay. In spring and autumn, they concentrate from the western coast of Alaska to the Anadyr Gulf. They winter in the southern parts of the Bering Sea, along the eastern coast of Siberia to the south to the northern part of the Kamchatka peninsula, and along the southern coast of Alaska. Fossilized walrus remains of an age of 28 thousand years were found near the San Francisco Bay, which shows the spread of the walrus down to the shores of northern California during the last ice age. Atlantic walrus was almost exterminated as a result of uncontrolled commercial fishing, and its population is much lower. It is not easy to accurately estimate the number at present, but it probably does not exceed 20 thousand individuals. This population is widespread from Arctic Canada, Greenland, Spitsbergen, and also in the western region of the Russian Arctic. Based on the enormous geographical distribution and movement data, eight subpopulations of the Atlantic walrus, five in the west and three in the east of Greenland are expected. The Atlantic walrus used to occupy the limits stretching to the south to Cape Cod and in greater numbers was found in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. In April, 2006, the northwestern population of the Atlantic walrus was listed as Canadian Species at Risk Act (Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador) as almost disappeared in Canada. The isolated Laptev walrus population is localized throughout the year in the central and western regions The Laptev Sea, In the easternmost region Kara Sea, As well as in the westernmost part Of the East Siberian Sea. The current population is estimated at 5 - 10 thousand individuals.


These huge, awkward animals on land, inhabiting the Far North, live mostly off the coast and rarely make significant trips. Walruses are sociable and mostly meet in herds; Courageously defend each other: in general, walruses in the water are dangerous opponents, since they can overturn or smash the fangs of a boat. They rarely attack boats. It is much safer to hunt them on ice floes or on land where they go for rest, and the herd always puts out sentries. The sense of smell is well developed in walruses, and they feel the person at a considerable distance, so they are trying to approach them against the wind. Noticing the danger, the hour-old roar (which in walruses represents something between the roar of a cow and a barking bark) or pushes others, the animals rush into the sea, almost simultaneously go under the water and can stay there without air until 10 minutes. The food of the walrus consists mainly of lamellarbranch mollusks and other bottom invertebrates, sometimes walruses eat fish. In some cases walruses can attack seals or eat carrion. They are kept in groups, females separately. Walruses are born once in three to four years. Mother feeds them with milk for up to a year, other food young walruses start to eat from 6 months. With the mother they remain up to two - three years. There is an opinion that huge fangs serve mainly for excavating at the bottom of the named mollusks, and also for protection. Also, on the basis of observations of the nature of tusk wear and the erasure of vibrissae on the muzzle of walruses, the opinion was expressed that walruses most likely dig the ground not with tusks but with the upper edge of snout, tusks play mainly a social role, since they are used in establishing hierarchical relations and When demonstrating a threat. In addition, they can be used to make and maintain holes in the ice and to "anchor" on ice, so as not to slip off in strong winds or currents. Observations of walruses in zoos and similar institutions have shown that they often use tusks in fights among themselves, especially during mating. Due to the fact that walrus tusks help themselves climbing ice floes or rocky coast, they got their generic name: "odobenus" in Greek means "walking with teeth" or "walking on teeth".

Human use and the current state of the population

In the 18th and 19th centuries, the walrus was subjected to serious fishing by American and European winters. This led to a sharp reduction in the number, which, in turn, almost led to the total destruction of the Atlantic walrus population. Commercial production of walruses is currently prohibited by laws in all countries where it is distributed, although in a limited amount of fishing it is allowed for indigenous, native peoples whose existence is closely related to the production of this species. Among them are the Chukchi and Eskimos. Hunting for walruses passes near the end of summer. Traditionally, all parts of the harvested walrus are used. Meat is often canned and is an important source of proteins during the long winter. Fins are sour and stored as a delicacy until spring. Fangs and bones are historically used as tools, as well as as an ornamental material. Overheated fat is used for heating and lighting. Strong skin is used as ropes and for building dwellings, as well as for cladding boats. From the intestine and stomach make waterproof capes. Meanwhile, as modern technologies replace many aspects of the use of walruses, walrus meat remains a necessary part of the diet of indigenous peoples, as well as handicrafts from tusks constitute an important part of folklore for many communities. Hunting for walruses is regulated by environmental and resource-sharing organizations in Russia, the United States, Canada and Denmark, and representatives of hunting communities. It is estimated that between four and seven thousand Pacific walruses are mined in Alaska and in Russia, including a significant portion (about 42%) of animals damaged or lost in hunting. Several hundred individuals are annually seized near Greenland. The impact of this level of fishing on the population is difficult to assess, because by now the population size is not well defined. At the same time, such important parameters as fertility and mortality are unknown.


The impact of global climate change on the walrus population is another factor that must be taken into account. In particular, the reduction in the length and thickness of pack ice is well documented. It is on this ice that walruses form rookeries during the reproductive period for childbirth and mating. As a hypothesis, it is assumed that a reduction in the thickness of pack ice in the Bering Sea has led to a reduction in suitable recreational areas alongside optimal feeding areas. As a result, the duration of the absence of the mother near the fattened increases, which, in the final analysis, leads to food stress or a decrease in the reproductive contribution of females. However, until now scientists have a small amount of data, which makes it difficult to make a reliable conclusion about the impact of climate change on the trend of population change. Currently, the status of the walrus on the IUCN list is defined as "Insufficient data". The Atlantic and Laptev subspecies inhabiting Russia are included in the Red Data Book of Russia and are categorized as 2 (declining in numbers) and 3 (rare), respectively. Trade in handicrafts from walrus tusks and bones is regulated by the international convention CITES, Appendix 3.


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