Rare guest on the island of Rügen: A walrus caused a stir on the largest German island. After the animal, which was over two meters long, was sighted there on Thursday morning, it swam away again in the evening. This was reported by Michael Dähne, curator for marine mammals at the German Maritime Museum, on Friday. Before that, the animal turned around again briefly. “People were excited. You don’t get an opportunity like that very often.”
According to Dähne, a visit to a beach in the north of the island is a rarity: to his knowledge, it is the first documented sighting in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. And on the German Baltic Sea coast, he immediately found another one north of Lübeck. So far there have only been two or three documented sightings in the inner Baltic Sea.
According to the Maritime Museum, the animal had been reported by an observer. An employee of the museum and a veterinarian immediately set out to inspect it. According to Dähne, it was probably a young female. According to the Maritime Museum, the section of beach was cordoned off to allow the animal to rest undisturbed. Looking at the onlookers, Dähne praised: “They all kept to the barriers very well.”
During assessments, the animal would have looked “fit”, said Dähne. It had no noticeable injuries, was fed normally for the time of year and was breathing normally.
It is unclear why it stopped on Rügen. The scientist speculates that it could be that the walrus simply migrated somewhere else. But it could also have something to do with the loss of habitat. Experts assume that the loss of ice due to climate change will become a problem for the animals. “When the ice recedes, there are simply fewer ice edges and fewer ice holes.” That’s where the animals usually stayed.
According to the German Maritime Museum, walruses are primarily native to the polar regions of the Atlantic and Pacific. The closest region where walruses are more common is in Norway, Dähne said. The Atlantic walrus can grow up to 3.50 meters and weigh about a ton. Their cousins in the Pacific are larger.
“Of course we keep checking to see if the animal is seen again,” said Dähne. There is an app and a website that can be used to report observations. There are indications that the animal had previously been sighted where it goes from the North Sea to the Baltic Sea. “Let’s hope it finds its way north out of the Baltic Sea.”
The German Maritime Museum in Stralsund certainly has experience with exotic guests. In 1965 a leatherback turtle from the Caribbean strayed into the Baltic Sea and died shortly after being recovered. The animal, named after the film diva Marlene Dietrich, was taxidermied and was responsible for the fact that the Maritime Museum came into being in the first place.