Arctic walrus spotted in Scotland 'looks healthy'

image copyrightKinlochbervie Science/Kinlochbervie High School
image captionAn image of the walrus taken earlier this month by Kinlochbervie High School's science department

A walrus that has been appearing on Scottish beaches since March should be able to survive long-term as long as it can find food, an expert has said.

Tom Arnbom, a senior advisor to WWF on the Arctic and its marine life, said images of the animal appeared to show that it was healthy.

The Arctic walrus first appeared in Orkney before turning up in the Highlands and the Western Isles.

Mr Arnbom said it was "really rare" for a walrus to show up outside the Arctic.

He has asked for people to keep their distance where it appears on shorelines, or in the sea.

The scientist, who is based in Sweden, told BBC Scotland News online: "It is really rare that they show up outside the Arctic, but it happens now and then. They are a coldwater species and often go ashore, or on to an ice floe to rest.

"The animal looks healthy. As long as it finds food it should be okay."

He added: "Normally they feed on mussels on the bottom and occasionally also fish. Some do also feed on birds and other seal species."

image copyrightRussell Neave
image captionRussell Neave's image of Wally the walrus in Orkney in March

Mr Arnbom said the public could help to protect the walrus' wellbeing.

He said: "The most important action is to leave it alone on the beach. One suggestion is to forbid anybody to come closer than 50m on the beach.

"In the water, avoid getting too close while the sound from the propeller can scare it and then risk of disturbance during feeding."

Marine wildlife charity British Divers Marine Life Rescue has been has been monitoring the walrus, dubbed Wally, and trying to assess its condition.

Since March, it has appeared at various locations including on Skye, Harris, Lewis and near Kinlochbervie.

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