Walrus (Reaktion Books - Animal)

Walrus (Reaktion Books - Animal)

John Miller

Language: English

Pages: 224

ISBN: 1780232918

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

From Lewis Carroll’s poem “The Walrus and the Carpenter” to the Beatles’s “I am the Walrus,” walruses have played an enigmatic role in popular culture. With their prominent tusks and distinctive whiskers, these odd-looking but charismatic animals have long held a crucial place in the lives and folklore of Arctic indigenous cultures, both as a vital food source and as a part of traditional oral literature. However, commercial trade of walrus products has caused the creatures to be hunted to the brink of extinction, with disastrous effects on human populations in the Arctic.
Combining natural, cultural, and environmental history, Walrus explores the intriguing story of an animal that today is on the front lines of conservation debates. John Miller and Louise Miller describe the problems facing walruses even after the twentieth-century bans on nonindigenous walrus hunting—shrinking pack-ice caused by global warming and the exploitation of Arctic oil and gas resources are destroying the animal’s habitat. Wonderfully illustrated with images of walruses in the wild and from art and popular culture, Walrus offers a refreshing account of these large-flippered mammals while also illustrating the ethical dilemmas they embody, from the intensifying conflict between the developed world and indigenous interests to the impact of global warming on arctic animals.

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light of recovering walrus populations fell upon deaf ears and control quickly returned to a federal level. To some, the idea of quotas seemed like a direct attack on a traditional way of life. One hunter complained to legislators that ‘You don’t know what it is to be an Eskimo. Out here hunting is our way of life. Carving ivory is our livelihood. We don’t want welfare supporting us and we don’t want to be forced from the villages.’2 Moreover the very idea of ‘subsistence’, with its connotations

Walrus Commission representing the interests of the native villagers would henceforth work with a ‘co-management plan’ to regulate the walrus hunt. Since 1998 a similar arrangement has existed for other areas of Alaska when a ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ to jointly administer the indigenous walrus harvest was signed between the ADFG, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Eskimo Walrus Commission, an organization which since 1978 has promoted the interests of Alaska’s walrus hunting

Walrus’, p. 80. 24  Carin Ashjian, quoted in ‘Abandoned Walrus Calves Reported in the Arctic’, in Oceanus online, www.whoi.edu, 2006. 25  Beth Orsoff, How I Learned to Love the Walrus (e-book, 2010), now reissued as Girl in the Wild (e-book, 2012). 26  Julia O’Malley, ‘Alaska’s Increasingly Famous Baby Walruses Just Want a Hug’ in Anchorage Daily News online, 9 October 2012. 27  Sir James Lamont, Yachting in the Arctic Seas (London, 1876), p. 62. 28  ‘A Marine Monster’, Daily British

‘beach-master and harem’ breeding pattern, as do other pinnipeds, notably the elephant seal. Male walruses compete to attract mates by performing for the females: swimming in repeated patterns and singing to them, a courting ritual unique among pinnipeds. A single walrus song can last for days and carry for up to 16 km (10 miles). The songs’ complexity has been compared to that of the humpback whale, consisting of a huge variety of sounds, including grunts, whistles, snorts, neighs and barks,

as test subjects in some surprising research into pinniped musicality. Folklore has long held pinnipeds to be musical; seals in Scotland were reputedly attracted by church bells, and Inuit hunters sang ritual songs to summon walruses. One recent observer has reported that hauled out walruses on a beach would approach him curiously if he sang to them. When trained to do tricks for animal shows in aquaria, captive walruses easily learn to perform movements and vocalizations on command. In 1884 a

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