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The Margin: Fundraiser to honor Norway’s late celebrity walrus Freya has raised $20,000 and counting

A fundraiser to build a statue in memory of a walrus euthanized by Norwegian authorities has drawn more than $20,000 and counting. 

Freya, a 1,320-pound walrus named after the Norse goddess of love and fertility, had become something of a local celebrity in the Oslo fjord region since July. She has been spotted sleeping and sunning herself on boats (sometimes damaging them) and piers up and down the coastline. 

But the Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries put Freya down early Sunday morning, citing public safety concerns after people repeatedly ignored warnings to keep their distance from the wild animal. They also deemed it was too dangerous to move her.

“We concluded that people’s lives and health could be in danger,” reads an English translation of the official statement on the department’s website, as translated by Google. “Despite repeated calls, the public did not follow recommendations to keep their distance from the walrus, and dangerous situations arose on several occasions.” 

The head of the directorate, Frank Bakke-Jensen, said other options — including moving the animal elsewhere — were considered. But authorities concluded it wasn’t a viable option.

“We have sympathies for the fact that the decision can cause a reaction from the public, but I am firm that this was the right call,” Bakke-Jensen said. “We have great regard for animal welfare, but human life and safety must take precedence.”

Norwegian newspapers have decried the controversial decision to put the animal down, as NBC reported, with headlines like, “Rage after Freya’s death.” 

“This is Norway in a nutshell,” Rune Aae, a biologist who had been tracking Freya’s journey, told NBC. “Too often we kill the animals we don’t like or can’t cope with. It’s an outrage in Norway how we are treating these kind of animals.”

Many people have also slammed the “indefensible” killing of the gentle giant on Twitter
Freya and her fundraiser were also trending among Google searches on Wednesday afternoon.

So it’s not so surprising that an online fundraiser to erect a statue of Freya in her memory had already raised more than $20,000 as of Wednesday on the fundraising platform Spleis.

Freya’s death “has a strong negative signal effect that we in Norway, and especially Oslo, are not able to provide living space for wild animals,” wrote the organizers of the fundraiser, as translated by the Washington Post. “By erecting a statue of the symbol Freya quickly became, we will always remind ourselves (and future generations) that we cannot or should not always kill and remove nature when it is ‘in the way.’”

Atlantic walruses normally live in the Arctic. It is unusual but not unheard of for them to travel into the North and Baltic Seas, especially as climate change has also pushed more animals to migrate into new territory. For example, another walrus, nicknamed Wally, was seen last year on beaches and even on a lifeboat dock in Wales.

Associated Press reporting contributed to this article.

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