Wally the Walrus is continuing his tour of the Wild Atlantic Way with people flocking to see the wandering mammal off the west Cork coast.
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.
On Wednesday he was spotted in a Cork harbour town, with throngs of people turning out to catch a glimpse as he relaxed on a boat about 500 metres from the harbour.
A group of people dressed in Where’s Wally costumes were found trying to lure Wally onto a raft in a bid to prevent him sinking more boats as he has done elsewhere.
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.”
She added: “We do know that he has sunk a few boats, and he’s capsized a few boats.
“This is because it’s an Arctic species, so usually they rely on holding out on sea ice.
“Since we don’t have sea ice, he is being opportunistic and climbing up on the next best thing, or the closest thing, which would be boats and ribs.”
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.”
Efforts are being made to lure Wally onto a specially modified rib, to prevent further damage to other boats.
“We just hope that the next time he jumps off of the boat, they’re going to try to take the boat away, so that he uses the rib alternatively,” Ms Croce said.
“If he does take to the rib, which is what we’re hoping he’ll do, then that will be a designated place for him to be safe.”
Up to 100 people gathered around the walls of the harbour, with children, retired couples and wildlife photographers all taking advantage of the sunny weather to catch a sighting of Wally.
Seal Rescue Ireland say that Wally is a juvenile male, aged between four and five years old, and weighing around 800kg.
He was first spotted in Co Kerry in March, and since then has travelled all over Europe before returning to Ireland’s southwest coast.
Wally’s summer holiday has made headlines all over the continent, and while the reasons for his journey is unclear, it is feared it could be linked to climate change.
Ms Croce said: “He’s a wild animal, he’s very unpredictable.
“I’m pretty sure when he went as far south as Spain, that’s the most south any walrus has been documented going.
“So he’s not really following any rules.
“He’s kind of making them up as he goes.”
She added: “I would certainly suspect that sea ice melting due to climate change has displaced him.
“You know, animals like walruses and polar bears, ringed seals, hooded seals, these are all species that rely on sea ice.
“Due to climate change, we’re losing huge amounts of sea ice, and so they’re losing habitats.”
And because walruses are social creatures, she is hoping he can make his way home soon.
“We do hope that he can rest up and store up enough strength and energy to continue his journey northward and make it back to be with his own kind in the Arctic,” she said.
“They’re very, very social.
“So it’s not good for him to be so far away from his kind.
“We really want him to be back home with his own kind, in his own native habitat.
“We do hope that he makes his way northward up the west coast of Ireland, and keeps going and eventually makes it to the Arctic.”
Meanwhile the public are also to be on the lookout for grey seals on Irish beaches, as their birthing season approaches.
Ms Croce said: “The grey seals are one of our native pinniped species.
“This is the time of year where we’re going to be seeing pregnant females come up on the beach.
“They’re going to be having their pups and those pups also need to be resting, undisturbed from humans.
“So the same rules really apply.
“If you do come across a seal on the beach resting, please give it space of at least 100 metres.
“If you do think that it needs help you can call our 24-hour rescue hotline, and we’ll send out a trained volunteer to monitor it and potentially rescue it.”