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England's Beloved Wally the Walrus Seen Far From Home


We turn now to the Isles of Scilly. That's a collection of islands off the coast of southwest England, popular with tourists of all kinds.




GARCIA-NAVARRO: Wally the Walrus there, poking his snout out of the St. Mary Harbor and greeting an excited fan, as featured on the Cornwall Wildlife Trust's Instagram feed. He is more than a thousand pounds and very far from home.

LIZZI LARBALESTIER: So Wally the Walrus is in completely the wrong place in the globe.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Lizzi Larbalestier is with British Divers Marine Life Rescue.

LARBALESTIER: It was quite a shock when he first was noticed going into Wales in Tenby. And he's been moving around the area. So he's been going from Wales. He went to Cornwall. He also visited France and Spain, and he's now in the Isles of Scilly.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And it's not clear why Wally is spending so much time away from his normal Arctic habitat.

LARBALESTIER: So, first of all, when Wally arrived, he was something of a novelty. So people were surprised to see him and excited to see an animal that they would never normally see in real life.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: But no longer, says Larbalestier's colleague, Dan Jarvis.

DAN JARVIS: He's started to become, well, something of a nuisance, I suppose, in a way.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And that's because Wally likes to hop onto boats to digest and take a snooze. That's half a ton of walrus on deck. He's damaged and even sunk several boats.

JARVIS: This is an island community, a working island community, where there's a lot of dependency on boats for people's livelihoods, so, you know, there has been quite a big impact on people who've been affected.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So the Isles of Scilly hatched a plan to make sure Wally keeps his distance - things like acoustic deterrence and perfuming the air with the odor of Wally's natural predators.

LARBALESTIER: So we've contacted some zoos in the U.K. to have scents of items that have been played with by bears. Unfortunately, there was a discussion around potentially using dung - bear dung. But if you introduce anything into a marine environment that's not from a native species, you can create wider issues.


JARVIS: And it is very unusual behavior as well. We've never had a walrus doing this before. We do occasionally get them visit from the Arctic. But our current walrus, unfortunately, does seem to have developed quite a habituation to being around people.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: But no matter - to his human visitors, Wally is still a star far from home.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.