TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Scientists in northern Russia discovered a huge Atlantic walrus haulout on the shores of the Kara Sea where their habitat is under threat from shrinking ice and human activity.
Drone footage shows thousands of sea mammals laying on a frozen beach of the icy Kara Sea.
The animals could be seen on both banks of a local river known as ‘Walrus River’. According to earlier archeological research, the area was known to humans as a walrus hunting spot some 1,500 years ago.
In recent decades, Atlantic walruses were only spotted in dozens on the Yamal peninsula.
The haulout is located in a remote corner of the peninsula and can only be reached by helicopter, and scientists say they counted over 3,000 animals there last month.
Walrus haulouts have traditionally been located on drifting sea ice or on Arctic islands, but warmer climate cycles mean sea ice is shrinking and habitats are under threat from oil and gas exploration and more Arctic shipping- scientists say.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature listed the species as “nearly threatened” in 2016, estimating the total number of adult Atlantic walruses in the world at 12,500.
Before commercial hunting of them was banned internationally in the middle of the 20th century, their numbers were threatened by overharvesting for their blubber and ivory.