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National News supplied bySky News

Melting Ice Leaves 35,000 Walrus Stranded

An estimated 35,000 walruses were photographed around five miles (8 kilometres) north of Point Lay, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Experts say the gathering of walrus on shore is a phenomenon that has accompanied the loss of summer sea ice as the climate has warmed.      

Unlike seals, walrus cannot swim indefinitely and must rest. They use their tusks to pull themselves on to ice or rocks.

The World Wildlife Fund said walrus have also been gathering in large groups on the Russian side of the Chukchi Sea.

Margaret Williams, managing director of the group's Arctic programme, said: "It's another remarkable sign of the dramatic environmental conditions changing as the result of sea ice loss.

"The walruses are telling us what the polar bears have told us and what many indigenous people have told us in the high Arctic, and that is that the Arctic environment is changing extremely rapidly and it is time for the rest of the world to take notice and also to take action to address the root causes of climate change."

The enormous gathering at Inupiat Eskimo village Point Lay, 700 miles from Anchorage in Alaska's northwest, was spotted during NOAA's annual Arctic marine mammal aerial survey.

Andrea Medeiros, spokeswoman for the US Fish and Wildlife Service, said the walrus were first spotted on 13 September and have been moving on and off shore.

She said around 50 carcasses were spotted on the beach last week from animals that may have been killed in a stampede and that the agency was sending a team to determine their cause of death.

"They're going to get them out there next week," she said.





© Sky News, 2014