25 Walruses Killed on Alaskan Beach, Beheaded and Missing Tusks
It's a bad time to be a walrus. Authorities have launched a federal investigation into the deaths of 25 walruses on a beach off the Chukchi Sea in northwest Alaska last week. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) believe that the walruses did not die of natural causes.
"The carcasses, nearly half of which were cubs, seem to have been shot—some were even beheaded," says Bustle. Investigators suspect that they were poached for their ivory because some of their remains lacked tusks.
Poachers may have killed these 25 walruses for their heads and tusks: http://t.co/8rcnM2DLe4 http://t.co/kbVAT3sQw3— VICE News (@VICE News)1443131766.0
"The missing heads and tusks don’t necessarily indicate illegal activity," FWS spokesperson Andrea Medeiros told CBS Seattle. "The animals could have died in the ocean and washed ashore," she said. "Federal regulations allow anyone to collect bones, teeth and ivory of dead marine mammals found on beaches or land within a quarter-mile of the ocean, though they must follow certain rules," says CBS Seattle. "Walrus skulls with tusk attached are collectors’ items. The ivory often is carved and made into jewelry. However, walrus killed only for the collection of ivory is considered wasteful, and 'head-hunting' is illegal."
Horrible: 25 walruses, including babies, reportedly killed in Alaska refuge http://t.co/q03hAKAoO2 http://t.co/64pGgvfMcq— Wilderness Society (@Wilderness Society)1442870129.0
As if that wasn't bad enough, about 100 miles away at Point Lay, where some 35,000 walruses were hauled out yet again this year due to record low sea ice, an estimated 37 walruses were also found dead last week. In that case, FWS said that "they do not appear to have died as a result of foul play," according to Alaska Dispatch News.
"We haven’t had a chance to go out there and confirm whether they’re from this year or last year or identify the cause of death,” said James MacCracken, a supervisory biologist and walrus specialist at FWS.
35,000 walruses ‘hauled-out’ at Point Lay, Alaska, coinciding with declining sea ice #CWNYC http://t.co/WithcNu5sQ http://t.co/lx8UJNWZBZ— Geographical (@Geographical)1442849583.0
As of last week, the Point Lay area haulout was estimated to include 10,000 walruses, said Medeiros. Earlier this month, the National Snow and Ice Data Center announced that this summer, the Arctic sea ice hit the fourth-lowest level on record. Since 2007, diminishing sea ice in summer and fall has forced more and more female walruses and their pups ashore. Typically, they use the ice floes for resting and nursing in between dives for food. The overcrowding on beaches results in dangerous conditions, especially for the pups. They can be crushed to death when a herd stampedes due to disturbances from polar bears, people, aircraft or boat traffic.
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A Game of Jenga<p>Think of it as a game of Jenga and the planet's climate system as the tower. For generations, we have been slowly removing blocks. But at some point, we will remove a pivotal block, such as the collapse of one of the major global ocean circulation systems, for example the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), that will cause all or part of the global climate system to fall into a planetary emergency.</p><p>But worse still, it could cause runaway damage: Where the tipping points form a domino-like cascade, where breaching one triggers breaches of others, creating an unstoppable shift to a radically and swiftly changing climate.</p><p>One of the most concerning tipping points is mass methane release. Methane can be found in deep freeze storage within permafrost and at the bottom of the deepest oceans in the form of methane hydrates. But rising sea and air temperatures are beginning to thaw these stores of methane.</p><p>This would release a powerful greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, 30-times more potent than carbon dioxide as a global warming agent. This would drastically increase temperatures and rush us towards the breach of other tipping points.</p><p>This could include the acceleration of ice thaw on all three of the globe's large, land-based ice sheets – Greenland, West Antarctica and the Wilkes Basin in East Antarctica. The potential collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet is seen as a key tipping point, as its loss could eventually <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/content/324/5929/901" target="_blank">raise global sea levels by 3.3 meters</a> with important regional variations.</p><p>More than that, we would be on the irreversible path to full land-ice melt, causing sea levels to rise by up to 30 meters, roughly at the rate of two meters per century, or maybe faster. Just look at the raised beaches around the world, at the last high stand of global sea level, at the end of the Pleistocene period around 120,0000 years ago, to see the evidence of such a warm world, which was just 2°C warmer than the present day.</p>
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The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation has a major effect on the climate. Praetorius (2018)
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