Norway’s popular attraction, Freya the walrus, was euthanized on Sunday morning for safety reasons, Norwegian authorities have announced.
The decision comes after the country’s Fisheries Directorate warned that Freya could be put down on Thursday because people got too close to the animal and threw objects at it.
“Through on-site observations last week, it was made clear that the public has been disregarding the current recommendation to keep a clear distance from walrus,” he said. ‘Therefore, Management has concluded that the possibility of potential harm to people is high and animal welfare is not being maintained.’
The 1,300-pound female walrus has become an icon – capturing hearts (and making marine enemies) to sunbathe and gulp on nearby boats, sometimes sinking them.
As well as Norway, Freya has made appearances in the UK, Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden in recent years.
With the help of viral posts on social networks, the friendly walrus gained worldwide fame. Flocks of fans came to see Freya during her stay in Norway’s Oslofjord this summer.
Meet Freya:1,300-pound Morse catching hearts, sinking boats and irritating sailors
According to the government agency, the public went to the water’s edge to pose for photos, sometimes trying to bathe with Freya and throwing objects at her – disregarding the recommendations of the authorities and, above all, putting in danger to the health of the marine animal.
In addition to Freya’s well-being, this behavior can put people at risk, senior communications adviser at the Directorate of Fisheries Nadia Jdaini explained in Thursday’s statement.
The operation to take down Freya was a “last resort,” Fisheries Department spokesman Vegard Oen Hatten told The New York Times on Friday.
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“It’s a unique situation,” added Hatten. “It’s the first time that an animal has stayed out of its natural habitat for so long.”
Last month the Fisheries Directorate said euthanasia was “out of the question” and again a last option, noting that walruses are a protected species in Norway. The agency added that if Freya, for example, were to be euthanized, she would work with a veterinarian from the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research.
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Another option was to move Freya.
But relocation could have been difficult. The process includes tranquilization which carries “a risk of (walrus) drowning,” Erlend Asta Lorentzen, communications adviser at the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research, told NBC News.
Contributor: Natalie Neysa Alund, USA TODAY, Associated Press