Investment Portal of the Arctic Zone of the Russian Federation

Giants who need bodyguards

Russia celebrates Walrus Day on 24 November, the largest pinniped in the northern hemisphere

24 november 2022

Walrus Day was established in 2008 by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Marine Mammal Council. This holiday should remind people that walruses, despite their imposing size and formidable appearance, are among the most vulnerable inhabitants of the Arctic and need to be protected.

Walruses live in the cold seas of the Arctic Ocean. Researchers have identified several geographical races of these mammals. The Atlantic walrus inhabits the North Atlantic, the Pacific walrus lives between Chukotka and Alaska and the Laptev walrus can be found in the Laptev Sea. It is true that some experts, on the basis of DNA studies, have concluded that the Laptev walrus is a western population of the Pacific subspecies.

In late autumn, the seasonal migration begins as walrus herds move to warmer areas of the Arctic for their wintering grounds. During this time, the largest pinnipeds in the northern hemisphere are particularly vulnerable and in need of protection. That's why the 24 November is chosen as Walrus Day.

In the wild, polar giants have only two natural enemies—the polar bear and the killer whale, which mainly prey on walrus cubs. The main threat to adult pinnipeds, unfortunately, was and still is man. After all, just one successful hunt can yield a year's supply of meat and fat: adult males can weigh up to 1,600 kg and females can gain up to one ton in weight. By the 20th century, therefore, the huge animals were on the brink of extinction.

To date, the number of walruses in the Russian Arctic is estimated as follows: the Atlantic subspecies—about 2,000 heads, the Laptev ones—about 5,000. Pacific walruses are the most numerous—together with Alaska, they number about 130,000.

In the 21st century, another major threat to the giants has been global warming. Every year, there are fewer and fewer icefields in the Arctic seas, so walruses are forced to move from the ice to land and establish new coastal rookeries. So many adults congregate there that it leads to the death of a huge number of youngsters.

Preserving walruses is a task that requires everyone's efforts. This is why almost all the nature reserves and national parks established in the Russian Arctic are now involved in their protection. The Nenets Nature Reserve pays particular attention to the conservation of pinnipeds. Its staff conducts so many outreach activities that Naryan-Mar has become the unofficial capital of Walrus Day.

In the Russian Arctic National Park, walrus monitoring is also one of the most important areas of work. Throughout the year, using camera traps and satellite tagging, park staff monitor these animals, identifying new feeding grounds and rookery sites. Expeditions to pinniped habitats are also carried out regularly. For example, during last year's expedition, scientists surveyed Victoria Island and 34 islands in the Franz Josef Land and Novaya Zemlya archipelagos. As a result, they recorded more than 7,000 walruses—twice as many as the year before. This precise result was obtained by using unmanned aerial vehicles.

Drones helped to make another very happy discovery: a record haulout of 2,000 walruses was found on the Bolshiye Oranskiye Islands. This means that the number of walruses in the northernmost protected area has almost completely recovered.

You can watch the giant mammals in their natural environment, rather than in a zoo, in the Wrangel Island, Komandorsky and Nenets nature reserves, in the Beringia and Russian Arctic national parks. Specially designed eco-routes will allow you to see walruses up close without disturbing their natural course.

Read more Save the king of the Arctic Russia consistently implements polar bear conservation strategy


See all


Read more