According to French media, a walrus was seen in a hold in Sables-d’Olonne, a seaside town in western France.
Although he has yet to be nicknamed Wally by the French, it cannot be a coincidence that the arctic mammal bears a striking resemblance to Wally, the walrus who made Tenby his home for several weeks in April.
Wally, a young Atlantic walrus, has become something of a celebrity in Wales with tourists flocking to Tenby to spot him at his favorite spot near the RNLI lifeboat station.
He gave the RNLI a headache every time they needed to launch their lifeboat, with garden hoses and air horns being used to try to get him away.
He left the Pembrokeshire coast without a trace last week before briefly appearing further south near Padstow in Cornwall last Thursday.
Following this last sighting across the English Channel, he seems to have developed a penchant for holds. The French authorities scratched their heads over what to do with the 3.5 m long walrus that arrived Thursday in the hold of the Priory Saint-Nicolas around 7 a.m. Wally spent a few hours there before returning to sea just after 10 a.m. and the French maritime police were dispatched to avoid the risk of accidents.
According to the French media: “The mammal sank and we never saw it again”. It is said that Wally then headed for Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie where he had already been seen Wednesday morning, at the pier at the entrance to the port.
Its movements are monitored by the Pelagis Observatory of the University of La Rochelle. People are warned not to approach Wally who is described by French authorities as “a wild, dangerous, powerful animal that can go ashore very quickly”.
There are only 70 nautical miles between Tenby and Padstow and with top speeds of 21 miles per hour this was a relatively short cruise for the Arctic animal. However, Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie is a little further, halfway between Brest and Bordeaux on the Bay of Biscay.
Native to arctic waters, be it the east coast of Greenland or Svalbard, Wally is far from its natural habitat. It had been hoped that as the water temperature rose he would move north towards the cold water and get closer to home, but he seems to be doing the opposite.
Why the walrus ended up so far south remains a mystery. While some suggest that the animal could have been floating on the ice, others say that the animal could have simply been foraging for food or been disturbed, for example by noise, and kicked out of its way.