Wally, the walrus is set to get a ‘floating couch’ in an effort to prevent him from sinking more boats.
The Arctic walrus, who was first spotted off Kerry last March, has spent the last two weeks cruising and feeding along the south-east and southern coast.
But the 800kg male juvenile has left a trail of destruction by hauling himself onto several small boats to rest, causing thousands of euro worth of damage and sinking at least two.
Walruses, like seals and sea lions, are pinnipeds, or semi-aquatic, which means they must come up on land or onto a floating object to rest.
His penchant for lounging on boats prompted an appeal from Seal Rescue Ireland (SRI) for the donation of an unused rib or a large pontoon that could be used as a designated haul-out site for him to rest.
SRI executive director Melanie Croce said they have also been liaising with British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) in the UK, who helped install a floating pontoon for Wally during his six-week stint in the Isles of Scilly in July, on how best to respond.
Ms Croce said SRI has now secured a sturdy pontoon, with three raised sides, which looks like a floating couch.
It is ready to be deployed quickly if there are more sightings of Wally in busy harbour areas over the coming days.
A boat owner who lost his vessel to Wally last week used towels to gather the animal’s scent before the boat sank.
Those towels have now been used to scent the pontoon in the hope of encouraging Wally to use it when or if it is deployed.
And while this potential response would require close liaison with the Coast Guard, local authorities, wildlife, marine or port authorities, Ms Croce said they have also secured the use of a disused rib, which is more easily transported and installed.
SRI’s response will depend on where and when Wally is next sighted, she said.
“We have never done this before so there are lots of learnings as we go,” Ms Croce said.
“We are getting assistance from BDMLR and we are working with Orca Ireland and the West Cork Animal Welfare Group.
“But things have gone quiet over the weekend so we think he’s ‘flying below the radar’, which is good, for now.
“We would like to be able to let him to continue his natural behaviours but when word gets out about his location, a situation arises where we have to intervene.
“We only step in when human interactions with him threaten to disturb him. Our priority is the animal’s welfare.”
Wally is expected to continue cruising north, along Kerry and then up the western seaboard.