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Walruses shake off Danish migrant-watchers

Plucky creatures escape satnav tags implanted 'for their own good'

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A plan to monitor Atlantic walruses using satnav bugs shot into their hides from crossbows or CO2 guns has run into trouble.

A Danish research team fired tags into 10 walruses off the Greenland coast just over a month ago. Dr Erik Born, leader of the walrus-tagging team, said the project was intended to monitor the animals' migration.

Denmark is, of course, notoriously unwilling to welcome migrants, but El Reg hadn't realised that even Greenland walruses were now being seen as a threat to Europeans' jobs and cultural integration.

And indeed this turned out not to be the case. It seems the two-ton whiskery tuskers are uninterested in moving to Denmark, choosing instead to head off each year to a mystery summer hideaway. Dr Born and his crew are determined to find out where this might be and what the walruses get up to there.

But it seems that walruses guard their privacy jealously. Two of the 10 tags simply bounced off the creatures' tough hides, and it appears that now all but one of the remaining eight devices has ceased transmitting. Dr Born's crew didn't expect the bugs to keep working for longer than two months, but he told the BBC that he was a little disappointed with the way things had gone.

The researchers contend that their scheme is entirely for the walruses' benefit. The idea is seemingly to gather evidence which might be used to restrict hunting or oil exploration.

Be that as it may, the project seems not to be going well. The one remaining tag is attached to a female walrus whom the inquisitive Scandinavian eggheads have lightheartedly dubbed "W2". The creature has so far failed to begin her migration to the secret walrus summer retreat, but Dr Born and his team hope that she might get moving before her tag, too, becomes unserviceable.

It could be that the plucky female has managed to shake off the Danish snoopers already. According to the Beeb's "Walrus Watch" service, the last data received from her tag was dated six days ago. ®

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