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Last Updated: Monday, 21 May 2007, 09:16 GMT 10:16 UK
Lone tagged walrus leads the way
By Rebecca Morelle
Science reporter, BBC News

Walrus two
The remaining tagged walrus, pictured here, is on the move

A lone walrus may be close to revealing where west Greenland's walruses spend their summer - much to the relief of a team studying the creatures' behaviour.

In April, the researchers attached eight satellite tags to walruses to track their journeys, only to see seven of the devices stop signalling.

However, as the BBC's Walrus Watch map now shows, the remaining tagged beast - a 10-12-year-old female - is moving.

In the past week, she has swum hundreds of kilometres towards east Canada.

The tusked creature has a calf in tow, and appears on the BBC News website's map as walrus two (W2).

Until the past few days, she had remained close to the area where she had been tagged, just west of Greenland.

The researchers believe an abundance of thick sea ice, perfect for her to laze about on after feeding, was keeping her from embarking on her migration.

However, now the ice has begun to retreat, walrus two has begun her westward journey.

Rune Dietz, a biologist from the Danish Natural Environmental Research Institute and one of the tagging project's researchers, said: "It is great news that she has been moving. We are really pleased."

The animal has swum about 400km west to the mouth of Cumberland Sound - a body of water that lies between Baffin Island and eastern Canada.

Walrus two
Walrus two's calf can be seen just behind her
Dr Dietz said: "Previously, we have seen one walrus cross over to this area, so seeing another walrus do this supports the connection between the population in west Greenland and the one in Canada.

"Obviously, with such a small number we cannot be certain that this is where all of these walruses migrate to, but it does hint that this is the place."

He added: "We had hoped to see many more do this - but when tags are deployed in this way, they just will not last for very long."

The researchers will continue to follow the walrus' journey over the next few days as her tag continues to signal.

They will be looking to see if she moves closer to a number of sites where she can "haul out" on to ice pieces.

The tagging study is being run by the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources, in cooperation with the Danish National Environmental Research Institute and the Technical University of Denmark.

Walrus map
Walrus 1: Male, 4-5 years
Walrus 2: Female, 10-12 years - has yearling calf in tow
Walrus 3: Anomalous data point
Walrus 4: Male, 5-6 years
Walrus 5: Male, 18-20 years
Walrus 6: Female, 5-6 years
Walrus 7: Male, 5-7 years
(No data yet received from a tagged female and her son)

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