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Walrus Feel the Heat During Record Arctic Ice Melt

8 years ago196 views

At this time of year, Pacific walrus would normally be spread out across the Chukchi Sea of northern Alaska, using ice floes as platforms from which to feed and nurture their young. Not this year however.

Tens of thousands of walrus have had to come ashore because there are no ice floes.

It's been an unusually warm summer and the ice this far south has melted.

For scientists like the World Wildlife Fund's Sybille Klenzendorf it's an alarming phenomenon.

[Dr. Sybille Klenzendorf, Managing Director, World Wildlife Fund]:
"Before, when sea-ice was closer to the shoreline where the feeding grounds for them are, they could rest right on the ice right above where they feed so they wouldn't have to swim to land but today the ice is gone and they have to find a place where they can rest in between feeding."

With such a massive congregation of walrus comes danger. The animals are more vulnerable to attack by land based-predators like polar bears and because these huge creatures are easily spooked, stampedes can be deadly.

[Dr. Sybille Klenzendorf, Managing Director, World Wildlife Fund]:
"What we also are seeing a lot now is much higher mortality of walrus that are congregating on the beaches. Before when they were able to rest on sea-ice they were much more spread out. Now that they're congregating on one place, when they're scared for example, you can see huge stampedes and the young ones are just getting trampled and die."

Data released by the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Colorado reveals that Arctic Sea Ice reached it annual minimum extent on September 10, the third lowest since records began in 1979.

It's a trend that scientists say exemplifies the impact of global warming.

They say the plight of the walrus is an example of how climate change could gradually alter habitats all over the world

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