Arctic walrus washes up on rocks at Valentia Island

Updated / Monday, 15 Mar 2021 08:59

it is believed that the walrus is quite young as his tusks are only 30 centimetres or so long (Pics: Alan Houlihan)

By Jennie O'Sullivan

An Arctic walrus has washed up on rocks at Valentia Island in County Kerry.

The sea mammal was spotted by a father and his young daughter while out walking this afternoon.

The walrus is said to be in an extremely exhausted state.

Over two metres in length, it is believed that he is quite young as his tusks are only 30 centimetres or so long.

The tusks of a fully grown walrus can grow up to one metre in length.

Five-year-old Muireann was the first to spot what she thought was a seal in the water near Glanleam beach but her father, Alan Houlihan, quickly realised that it was a walrus.

"We realised it wasn't a seal when it breached out of the water, and climbed up onto a nearby rock.

"It was amazing. A real adventure. We couldn't believe our eyes. It is once-in-a-lifetime stuff."

Although rare, walruses have been spotted in Irish waters before. One spotted on the Shannon in 1897 providing the first record. There were no further sightings until the 1980s, but there have been well over 20 since then.

Kevin Flannery of Dingle Oceanworld Aquarium said, as a wild animal the walrus must be left alone to regain his strength and "hopefully then, he can make his way home himself".

Walruses like to feed on Icelandic clams.

Asked how this arctic sea mammal could have ended up on an island off the south west coast of Ireland, Mr Flannery said it is very likely he could have been asleep on an iceberg which melted off the Greenland Shelf, and that he may have crossed on the Gulf Stream ending up on Valentia island.

The word 'Walrus' is derived from the dutch words for 'Walvis' meaning 'whale' and 'ros' meaning 'horse'. Its closest living relatives are seals and sea-lions.

The Irish Parks & Wildlife Service has been notified.