If John Lennon were alive today, he may have changed his tune to reflect the reality about what the walruses are facing in the arctic. In this mini-documentary, researchers are describing the walrus as the latest canaries in the climate-change coal mine.
In a world of quick sound bites, the climate is a recurring theme that people may be getting tired of hearing. Well, we couldn’t possibly be any more tired than these featured walrus pups, stranded in the middle of the deep arctic ocean far away from land.
The polar bear has been the charismatic megafauna poster child of climate change, but that just scratches the surface for the myriad of other wildlife affected by retreating sea ice. Walruses and polar bears face the same problems of decreased capabilities for hunting. The walrus’ mighty tusks helps to hoist their mega-ton bodies up on the ice, but with less and less ice to latch on to to rest, they are left swimming for extended periods of time in the cold water.
If you do a simple calories in-calories out calculation, it’s easy to see that the math doesn’t add up in the favor of arctic mammalian life.
More and more walruses are gathering on land that is closer to civilization than ever before. The mini-documentary describes the dangers and changes in behavior that this can trigger. A disturbance heard on land, such as a car engine starting, a dog or a hunter can cause a stampede and crush smaller members of the herd.
The above photo was taken in Anchorage, Alaska, on September 10, 2010. According to USGS researchers, this has never been seen in this part of the world. Arctic sea ice is reported to be at the third lowest point on record.
On September 10, 2010, this was printed in Alaska Dispatch: “USGS scientists traveled to Point Lay earlier this month to tag some of the walruses in an effort to track and study their movement. They’re particularly interested in how much more swimming the hauled out walruses, most of which are females, will have to do to find food and how that extra effort will affect the animals’ health. They’re also worried about how young walruses â€” which rely on a mother’s care for two years and which nurse for the first six to seven months of life â€” will fare.” (reposted with thanks from http://climateprogress.org/2010/09/13/walruses-melting-sea-ice-global-warming/)
So where does that leave us? Are you tired of hearing the usual rhetoric that we need to drive our cars less, use incandescent light bulbs, recycle more all in the name of making a difference? While these things certainly help, it is hard to stop the wheels of climate change all by yourself, but it can be done.
Every letter that is written to a member of parliament represents 20 signatures and a phone call is more direct and, literally, speaks louder than print. It is hard to imagine that these arctic species, who have evolved such intricate adaptations to their environment, runs the risk of disappearing from the simple act of the disappearance of the cold stuff. I can’t imagine a world without them and I urge you to join me in letting our political representatives know that we’re paying attention to what is happening to our planet and the effects climate change is having on those lacking opposable thumbs. If you use your g-mail phone, these calls are free. Do it for the walruses. John would be proud of you.
Jim Prentice – environment minister: 613-992-4275, firstname.lastname@example.org. Ask Jim what he’s doing to protect our arctic ice from disappearing and prevent the extinction of some pretty fantastic creatures.
Find your member of parliament, by postal code here. Mine is Francis Scarpellegia: 613-995-8281, Scarpaleggia.F@parl.gc.ca.