What others say: Slaughter of two dozen animals for ivory a callous, cowardly act

  • Wednesday, October 7, 2015 4:58pm
  • Opinion

An apparent slaughter of more than two dozen walruses on Alaska’s northwest coast last week was enough to shock the conscience of any Alaskan. The Last Frontier has long been a land of plenty, and for thousands of years, those who have lived here have borne the responsibility of being good stewards of the land and its animals. Incidents like the one near Cape Lisburne last week do much damage to that stewardship, as well as to the population of one of Alaska’s signature species that can ill afford such killings.

Out of all Alaska’s big, charismatic animals, the walrus is rivaled only by the polar bear in its vulnerability to a changing environment. The Alaska walrus population was estimated at 129,000 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2006, but because of the difficulty in counting a species that spends much time underwater and on the move, the actual number could be anywhere between 55,000 and 500,000.

Recent sea ice changes have been hard on walruses. Specifically, higher temperatures have led to thinner and less expansive sea ice that walruses traverse and forage on in winter, forcing them to shore. On shore, they’re considerably more vulnerable to predators such as polar bears and humans. “With less sea ice, walruses will likely spend more time on shore haulouts along the Russian and Alaskan coasts where foraging trips may be more limited to foraging grounds nearby,” a statement on the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s website states. “Calves and yearlings suffer increased mortality on terrestrial haulouts when disturbances cause the herd to panic and rush to the water running over and crushing the smaller animals.”

As last week’s incident at Cape Lisburne highlights, the walruses have reason to fear such disturbances. A resident in the area contacted federal officials after discovering 25 walruses — half of them babies — that appeared to have been shot and left to rot on the shoreline, with little or no meat salvaged and ivory taken from the walruses’ bodies. An investigation is ongoing, but circumstantial evidence points to the wholesale slaughter of a game animal solely for its ivory, an egregious case of wanton waste and a federal offense.

Without help from the community, there may be little hope of bringing those who killed the walruses at Cape Lisburne to justice. That’s shameful, particularly because it’s a crime that goes against all that Alaskans should stand for. Wild animals such as the walrus, when they are hunted at all, are to be hunted by Alaska Natives to feed their families, not for profit from ivory or even for sport. No matter whether there are 55,000 or 500,000 walruses, there aren’t enough to afford this type of wastefulness.

If there are people other than the perpetrators of the walrus killing at Cape Lisburne who have information about what happened there, they should come forward.

Staying silent only enables further waste and degradation of the subsistence ethic. Alaskans are supposed to be good stewards of the country and its animals, not indiscriminate killers who deplete our wildlife resources for thrills or profit.

— Fairbanks Daily News-Miner,

Sept. 25

More in Opinion

(Juneau Empire file photo)
Opinion: Alaska House makes the right decision on constitutionally guaranteed PFD

The proposed amendment would have elevated the PFD to a higher status than any other need in the state

Rep. Justin Ruffridge, a Soldotna Republican who co-chairs the House Education Committee, speaks during floor debate of a joint session of the Alaska State Legislature on Monday, March 18, 2024. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Rep. Justin Ruffridge: Creating a road map to our shared future

Capitol Corner: Legislators report back from Juneau

An array of solar panels stand in the sunlight at Whistle Hill in Soldotna, Alaska, on Sunday, April 7, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Renewable Energy Fund: Key to Alaska’s clean economy transition

AEA will continue to strive to deliver affordable, reliable, and sustainable energy to provide a brighter future for all Alaskans.

Mount Redoubt can be seen acoss Cook Inlet from North Kenai Beach on Thursday, July 2, 2022. (Photo by Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion)
Opinion: An open letter to the HEA board of directors

Renewable energy is a viable option for Alaska

Sen. Jesse Bjorkman, R-Nikiski, speaks in opposition to an executive order that would abolish the Board of Certified Direct-Entry Midwives during a joint legislative session on Tuesday, March 12, 2024 in Juneau, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Sen. Jesse Bjorkman: Making progress, passing bills

Capitol Corner: Legislators report back from Juneau

Priya Helweg is the deputy regional director and executive officer for the Office of the Regional Director (ORD), Office of Intergovernmental and External Affairs, Department of Health and Human Services, Region 10. (Image via hhs.gov)
Opinion: Taking action on the maternal health crisis

The United States has the highest maternal mortality rate among high-income countries

Heidi Hedberg. (Photo courtesy of the Alaska Department of Health)
Opinion: Alaska’s public assistance division is on course to serve Alaskans in need more efficiently than ever

We are now able to provide in-person service at our offices in Bethel, Juneau, Kodiak, Kenai, Homer and Wasilla

Sara Hondel (Courtesy photo)
Opinion: Alaskan advocate shines light on Alzheimer’s crisis

In the heart of the nation’s capital next week, volunteers will champion the urgent need for legislative action to support those affected by Alzheimer’s

Most Read