A lucky Alan Houlihan and his five-year-old daughter, Muireann, were the first to enjoy the incredibly rare sight of an Arctic walrus lounging on a rock off the Irish coast.
Images of the animal washed up on the rocks at Valentia Island in Kerry, Ireland on Sunday afternoon is wowed the youngster, her father and biologists alike.
“He disappeared into the sea for a while and he then came back and put himself on a rock for a good couple of hours. It was fantastic,” Houlihan told Irish press.
The Irish Whale & Dolphin Group wrote on social media that this was only the third validated sighting of a walrus in Ireland since 1999.
And, according to Ireland’s National Biodiversity Data Centre there have been 11 walrus sightings since 1897.
A walrus was spotted ashore at Knightstown, Valentia Island, Co. Kerry today. This Artctic species is an infrequent visitor to Irish waters, with 11 records in our database, dating back to 1897. #ExploreYourShoreIRL at https://t.co/kRStl5Mk06 pic.twitter.com/xseQaZUC3a— Biodiversity Ireland (@BioDataCentre) March 14, 2021
In 2018, an adult walrus was seen on the north and west coast of Scotland.
And this particular one might have been kind of in the neighbourhood recently.
“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,” according to the IWDG.
IWDG confirmed a Walrus sighting from Valentia. Co. Kerry earlier today. We would like to thank Alan Houlihan Who reported this sighting to us today March 14th 2021 from west of Knightstown, Valentia Island, Co. Kerry. pic.twitter.com/YxawS9Q4z2— Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (@IWDGnews) March 14, 2021
The IWDG asked people to give the walrus space if they come upon it.
We would ask members of the public fortunate enough to see it, to observe this wayward traveler from a safe distance and to give it the space it requires and submit any subsequent sightings to the IWDG sighting scheme. Thank you🐳🦭 pic.twitter.com/hx6OyAdLpX— Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (@IWDGnews) March 14, 2021
The animal appears young and could be male or female — as both have tusks — according to experts.
It’s not exactly clear why it landed in Ireland.
But there are some theories.
Kevin Flannery of Dingle Oceanworld Aquarium suggested the walrus was dozing on iceberg, which melted off the Greenland Shelf only to find itself wake up in Ireland.
Tom Arnbom, a senior advisor to WWF on the Arctic and its marine life, disagreed. He suggested the adolescent animals headed out on a long trip to find new areas to breed.
“It is lost while it is far from any friends, but I am not afraid that it will die,” Arnbom told the BBC, adding that the walrus does not appear sick in the photographs.
Walrus sighting confirmed from Valentia. Co. Kerry …… IWDG received a sighting report of a Walrus from Alan Houlihan…Posted by Irish Whale and Dolphin Group on Sunday, March 14, 2021
Still, some are worried about the animal’s condition.
Walrus sighted in Co. Kerry! This Arctic species is not in good nutritional condition and we can expect it will likely pass away in the coming days. Hopefully it won’t but please let us know if and when this animal passes so we can further investigate. @CitizenW0lf @seal_rescue https://t.co/tn6kbIDKdc— ORCAIreland (@ORCA_Ireland) March 14, 2021
But Monday brought potentially some positive news — in that the animal wasn’t seen anywhere on the shore.
#WalrusUpdate: the Arctic Walrus is no longer near Glanleam Beach, Co. Kerry! We are hoping it has re-gained strength and began its long journey home! Please keep a look out for the walrus and let us know through the @ObserversApp if you spot it again! pic.twitter.com/v79st509Gz— ORCAIreland (@ORCA_Ireland) March 15, 2021