A Government minster has urged the public to “cop on” and leave Wally the Walrus in peace.
The Arctic walrus was first spotted in Ireland off the coast of Valentia Island in March, and has since travelled 4,000km along the coast of western Europe, being spotted in France, Spain and the UK.
He has made many appearances in Ireland throughout the summer, and on Wednesday was spotted in a Cork coastal town, where throngs of people turned out to catch a glimpse as he relaxed on a boat about 500 metres from the harbour.
But conservationists have urged the public to keep their distance, with Green party minister Malcolm Noonan now joining those calls.
He said: “While it’s understandable that many people are excited about the presence of a walrus on the Irish coast, we must remember that this is a wild animal and it should be respected.
“I’m appealing to everyone not to get close and only view it from a distance.
“This is for the animal’s sake, but also for your own, as there may be risks from a water safety perspective where large numbers of people are congregating on the water.
“Walruses are not a protected species under the Wildlife Act, it’s basically the same as a fox or rabbit under the law, so it’s up to people to cop on and have consideration for this poor wild animal, which is a long way from home.
“Leave it alone and if you must go and see it, use binoculars.”
Melanie Croce, executive director at Seal Rescue Ireland, has urged the public to behave responsibly when visiting Wally.
“The biggest things are to maintain safe distance of at least 100 metres, and to observe quietly.
“This is a huge animal, he’s 800 kilos,” she told the PA news agency.
“And so he could hurt someone or he could hurt himself, if he’s scared.
“If people are startling him and stressing him, it could cause him to cause damage to property.”
Ms Croce also urged people not to share Wally’s exact location, as this was drawing people to him and potentially disturbing him.
She said: “All day, he’s been surrounded by boats, paddleboarders, kayakers, people coming right up close to the boat and sticking cameras in his face.
“We really need to put his welfare and his safety first.
“So we really are just advising the public to keep a safe distance, to please keep from disclosing the location, and to report it Seal Rescue Ireland’s 24 hour hotline if you do see him.
“He actually is showing signs of an injury on his flipper as well.
“That could be because people were approaching him and startling him and that’s caused him to repeatedly climb in and out of the boat, which puts him at risk and the boat at risk.
“So just please, please respect him from a distance.”