Sculpture of controversially euthanized walrus Freya unveiled in Norway

A bronze sculpture of a walrus that gained global attention last year by playfully basking in the Oslo fjord until officials euthanased her has been unveiled in Norway.

The life-size sculpture depicts Freya lying on her side on the rocky shore of Oslo’s Kongen Marina, not far from where the real 600-kilogram mammal last summer drew large crowds while chasing ducks and swans and sunbathing on boats struggling to support her bulk.

Officials chose to put her down in August, citing signs she was experiencing stress and amid fears she posed a threat to members of the public who did not keep their distance as requested.

The decision sparked widespread anger.

An online campaign raised more than $37,000 to build the sculpture commemorating Freya, campaign organiser Erik Holm said.

“I started this because I’m furious about the way the Fisheries Directorate and the state handled this situation,” Mr Holm told AFP ahead of the unveiling.

“Beyond the issue of Freya, we need to ask ourselves how we treat animals and nature.

“We need to think about our relationship to wildlife.”

A rose is placed next to the sculpture of the walrus 'Freya' in Oslo.
A single red rose was placed next to the sculpture of Freya.(AP: Annika Byrde/NTB Scanpix)

Sculptor Astri Tonoian named the piece For Our Sins.

“This is how humans treat wild nature, but it is also how humans treat humans,” the BBC quoted her as saying.

“This is how we treated Freya.”

Freya, who was estimated to be about five years old, had been sighted in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden before choosing to spend part of the summer in Norway.Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume.

The walrus is a protected species that normally lives in the more northerly latitudes of the Arctic.

Despite repeated appeals to stay away, curious onlookers approached Freya, sometimes with children in tow, to take photographs.

Walruses do not normally behave aggressively towards humans, but they can feel threatened by intruders and attack.

Critics said the decision to put Freya down was rushed and did not take her wellbeing into account.

Officials meanwhile said sedating Freya and moving her to a less-populated area would be too complex an operation.

“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,” Frank Bakke-Jensen, the head of Norway’s Directorate of Fisheries, said at the time.

“We have great regard for animal welfare, but human life and safety must take precedence.”

Source – ABC news