(CNN) The artist behind the controversial walrus sculpture Euthanized Because of public safety concerns, she says she hopes her creation will become a “3D history lesson” after it was unveiled in Norway’s capital, Oslo.
The life-size bronze statue shows Freya the Walrus curled up on her side near the water’s edge. The artwork was funded by an online campaign that raised $25,000 (£19,000).
Freya became a social media sensation last year, with tourists and locals thronging to see her.
The young woman had been spending time in Oslo Fjord, a bay on the country’s southeastern coast, and was apparently unafraid of humans, unlike most walruses. Videos showed the walrus climbing into small boats to sunbathe.
They became a danger to visitors who ignored orders from the Norwegian Directorate for Fisheries to keep a clear distance from them, instead of getting close to take pictures of the mammals and even throwing objects at them. This prompted the Directorate to decide to leave it, causing outrage from many across the country.
The sculpture’s artist, Astri Tonoyan, told CNN she was happy to work on the project “almost for free” because it was a subject close to her heart. She hopes that this will serve as a “3D history lesson”.
“In my head, my goal was to create a timeless symbol of people’s ability to abuse not only human beings but wildlife as well,” she said.
She believes Norway’s Fisheries Directorate should have handled the situation in a more ethical manner. “The authorities could have acted more quickly and tried to move her instead of shooting her. They waited too long and it became dangerous for people. They decided to do the ‘quick fix’.”
She added that the intention of the statue was not to make people hate the authorities as a single entity, but rather to “question the system” as a whole.
Previously, the directorate told CNN it was considering multiple solutions, including moving Freya out of the fjord. “The sheer complexity of such an operation led us to conclude that this was not a viable option,” said general manager Frank Back-Jensen. He added, “We have great respect for animal welfare, but human life and safety must be the priority.”
Female walruses usually weigh between 600 and 900 kilograms, or about 1,300 to 2,000 pounds. Marine mammals are usually wary of humans and stay on the outer edges of Norway’s coast.
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