Walrus – Holistic Health Management

Walrus illustrated by Ravenari


Risk-taking, being valuable to others, addressing illnesses via the whole body, holistic health management, preferring what you can sense over what you hear from others, taking your time to mature, forgetting to take care of yourself when distracted or in deep focus, preferring hanging out with your own gender, participating in pop culture, literature and creativity, a connection to the Arctic, ice symbolism, marine wisdom, stirring things up, unexpected grace, uncommon grace, necessary brute force, fat acceptance.

General Description:

The walrus is a large marine mammal found in the northern hemisphere, in the Arctic ocean and sub-Arctic seas. There are three species; all have prominent tusks, whiskers and size. Walrus use their tusks for cutting through ice, using them as hooks for stability and pulling the body out of the water. Males can weight up to 2000 kilograms, and females as little as 400. They are a keystone species in Arctic ecosystems. They lack external ears. Their hundreds of whiskers (vibrissae) are worn due to foraging on the sea floor in a pig-like manner and are extremely sensitive. They live approximately 20-40 years, and reach sexual maturity between 7-10. The walrus are benthic feeders, consuming molluscs, soft corals, sea cucumbers, crabs, shrimp and parts of other pinnipeds. They suck their prey out with their mouth, which is uniquely modified to create vacuum suction. They are only capable of shallow diving, and can remain submerged for 30 minutes at a time. They prefer shallow oceanic shelf habitats such as sea ice/ice floes, and migrate up to 3000 kilometres between seas and rocky beaches / outcrops according to changes in the ice.

They swim with their whole body, instead of being flipper-focused. They appear almost white when swimming due to the constriction of their blood vessels. Walruses have the largest baculum (penis bone) of any land mammal. Walruses are gregarious and several thousand individuals can tolerate close contact. In non-breeding seasons they are sex-segregated. During mating system, males will hold exclusive access to a small herd of females for a few days at a time. Males will fight each other with their tusks, and can cause significant bloodshed. Young are weaned after a year, but will often spend 3-5 years with their mother. They have the lowest reproduction rate of all pinnipeds. Walruses were nearly hunted to extinction in the 18th and 19th century. Walrus are prominent in the ceremonies and legends of indigenous Arctic nations, who have also hunted the walrus for its meat and materials. It has also been known as the ‘terrible monster’ and a ‘horse whale.’ They are also popular in pop culture, in the writings of Lewis Carroll, Rudyard Kipling and The Beatle’s ‘I am the walrus.’ They are impacted by global climate change which is causing a thinning in pack ice; which affects the ability of walrus to give birth and aggregate during reproduction. They are naturally predated upon by orca, polar bears and humans.