With their immaculate tusks and long whiskers, the walrus is the great hero of the Arctic fauna and is a symbol of the icy solitude. Together with the seal, the whale and the polar bear, the opportunity to see a walrus is an excellent reason to take one of the boats that coast the Svalbard Islands. The Svalbard Islands Nobile 1 jacket is ready to protect you from the biting winds that blow both in these places and in the city. You won’t need anything else except a pair of binoculars and your courage.
What are the walrus’s tusks for?
The walrus belongs neither to the family of seals nor to the family of sea lions, but rather the Odobenidae – a Greek name which literally means “those which walk with their teeth” -. But what are these long and pointed tusks for?
It was not initially easy to answer this question. Biologists racked their brains for some time over this natural mystery, seeing as how their extreme size could certainly not be considered a coincidence. The tusks of the walrus grow throughout the lifespan of the animal and can weigh up to 5 kg each. At first sight this does not seem to be a particular advantage! We have only recently found out the answer: the walrus’s tusks are used to enter the water while remaining anchored to an ice pack (those raft-like slabs of frozen water).
The correct weight of the walrus and how it stays in shape
An adult male walrus reaches an average of 3 metres in length and weight between 1000 and 1700 kg. Despite its impressive size, these pinnipeds do not have any problems moving, but they do so by jumping. They place their rear paws on the ground and move forward in large leaps in a very efficient manner, even though there is no doubt that they look a little awkward. The walrus feeds mainly on clams, oysters and other animals which live on the sea bed, such as prawns, crabs and sea cucumbers. In order to maintain a suitable weight, the walrus needs to eat at least 20 kg of molluscs per day.
Walrus or elephant seal, it’s a question of size
As soon as the sun comes out, the people of the Svalbard Islands are ready to relax and enjoy a little light and heat. But they are not the only ones! The animals also want to enjoy these brief moments of sparkling brightness. This is why it is not so unusual to come across a walrus beached on the ice packs as it suns its impressive belly. There are few animals larger that the walrus, including the elephant seal of the south, reaching 4000 kilos in weight and 6 metres in length. However, the latter has a penis which is approximately 30 centimetres long, while the walrus can reach up to 60 cm.