By Sophie Tanno, CNN
The artist behind a sculpture of a walrus that was controversially euthanized over public safety concerns says she hopes her creation becomes a “three-dimensional history lesson” after it was unveiled in Norway’s capital Oslo.
The life-sized bronze statue shows Freya the walrus curled up on her side close to the water’s edge. The artwork was funded by an online campaign, which raised $25,000 (£19,000).
Freya became a social media sensation last year, with tourists and locals thronging to see her.
The young female had been spending time at the Oslo Fjord, an inlet on the country’s southeastern coast, and was seemingly unafraid of humans, unlike most walruses. Videos showed the walrus clambering onto small boats to sunbathe.
She became a danger to visitors who ignored the Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries orders to keep a clear distance from her, instead getting up close to take photos of the mammal and even throwing objects at her. This prompted the directorate to make the decision to put her down, leaving many across the country enraged.
The statue’s artist, Astri Tonoian, told CNN how she was happy to work on the project “almost for free” as it was an issue that was close to her heart. She hopes it will serve as a “three-dimensional history lesson.”
“In my head, my goal was to make an immortal symbol of people’s ability to mistreat not just wildlife but also humans,” she said.
She believes that Norway’s Directorate of Fisheries should have dealt with the situation in a more ethical manner. “The authorities could have acted more quickly and tried to move her instead of shooting her. They waited too long and it became dangerous for the people. They decided to do the ‘quick fix’.”
She added that the intention with the statue is not to make people hate the authorities as one entity, but instead “question the system” as a whole.
Previously, the directorate told CNN that it was considering multiple solutions, including relocating Freya out of the fjord. But “the extensive complexity of such an operation made us conclude that this was not a viable option,” Director General Frank Bakke-Jensen said. He added: “We have great regard for animal welfare, but human life and safety must take precedence.”
Female walruses typically weigh between 600 and 900 kilograms, or around 1,300 to 2,000 pounds. Usually, the marine mammals are wary of humans and stay on the outer edges of Norway’s coast.
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