Spectators at the Xixiajou Wildlife Park in China were horrified to watch a 3,300 pound walrus killing two people. The first was a tourist, a man from Liaoning in Northeast China, who was visiting the park and lost his footing, falling into the walrus pool. While hugging the man, the walrus inadvertently pulled him underwater, drowning him. The trainer of the walrus jumped into the water to try to save the visitor while he was still flailing and fighting for his life, but the monstrous animal wrapped its arms around both men and plunged them deep underwater, leaving the two men dead. According to Fox News, officials at the zoo told local media they initially thought the walrus was just demonstrating his usual playful behavior with his longtime trainer, engaging in a hug, so they didn’t think he was in any danger. Sadly, however, not only was the tourist dead, but the trainer lost his life as well.
Video of the shocking incident of the two being held by the walrus has been widely circulated on Weibo, a popular social media site that is China’s equivalent to Twitter. International Business Times reports that so far, over 250,000 people have viewed the story and video and commented on it. Many who have viewed the video are now questioning the park’s safety protocols. The walrus exhibit remains open, but still has no barriers to prevent visitors from getting too close to the massive animals. The trainer, identified as Duan, has been taking care of the walrus and has been his trainer for over ten years. When he dove in to attempt to rescue the tourist, the walrus wrapped his other arm around Duan, pulling him in to hug them both tightly, pulling them underwater and leaving them both dead.
Wildlife park officials have strongly defended the walrus as well as their safety procedures, denying that there is any evidence that the walrus attacked the two, saying instead that it appears to be trying to hug them. They claim the walrus was trying to get its trainer, Duan, to play with him. Zoo employees attempted to save the two men from the walrus grasp using bamboo poles to drive the animal away. Unfortunately, by the time they were able to pull the two men up, they were already dead. The zoo workers admit that the walrus has a mild temper, but loves to play with humans. They remain convinced that the walrus was merely trying to play.
A 3,300-pound walrus killed two people in a Chinese wildlife park by “hugging” them tightly and drowning them https://t.co/ZZ3Vky2CRu— New York Post (@nypost) May 19, 2016
A report on the incident notes the lack of a banister or railing of any type to prevent guests from slipping into the walrus pool. The walkway above the pool is also narrow, only three feet wide. Tourists are not restricted from walking along it to get a better view of the walrus in its natural habitat. As of now, no changes to the walrus exhibit have been reported. The wildlife park remains open to tourists even after the death of two people.
An authority on walruses, Walrus-World, says that most of the time humans are safe from walruses. They claim that there has never been a report of a walrus attacking a human for no reason or “making a meal out of a human.” But they do admit that the walrus is a fierce fighter who will do whatever it can to protect itself and its offspring. There have been hunters who have lost their lives or suffered serious injuries due to being unprepared for the sheer strength and aggression of the walrus they were attacking.
Walruses tend to have an issue with noise, as it appears to be a big stress factor for them. When humans are in close proximity, especially with devices or electronics that make a lot of noise, it isn’t good for the animals. They become alarmed and will immediately began to stampede into the water if they happen to be on land when loud noises or other stimuli startles them. Many of the older or the youngest have been known to get trampled and killed in the process as the walruses race for their survival.
There have been actions toward trying to prevent flight routes from covering the main areas where the walruses live in order to prevent them becoming overly frightened by the loud noises from airplanes. In light of such possibilities, it’s plausible that a crowd of applauding tourists might produce enough noise to trigger some type of desperate behavior from the walrus. However, say zoo officials, this was not the case. A guest being in the walrus pool as well as the presence of the trainer provoked the playful nature of the walrus, prompting him to hug the two, sadly leaving them both dead.