Calling all adventurous animal lovers: Alaska's Round Island offers breathtaking views, fresh air, and a special musical treat. You read that right, this island is home to a lively population of walruses that put on the vocal performance of a lifetime.
The island can be found in the western waters off the Alaskan coast known as Bristol Bay. The island serves as one of the northern state's many reserves: Walrus Islands State Game Sanctuary. And without fail, come the warmer months of the year, the island is flooded by thousands of Pacific walrus males looking for some downtime. Just like a weekend away with friends, these males head to the island's shores to recover after a grueling mating season. While they rest on the beach, the females travel even further north to birth their young and raise them in the chilly waters.
But the congregation of walruses benefits visiting biologists and conservationists just as much as it serves as R&R for the new dads. For when the thousands of male walruses convene on the beaches of Round Island, they join together in unique vocalization that results in a booming sound that can even be heard underwater. But like most animal habitats, climate change has continued to threaten this beautiful feat of natural wonder. However, luckily, there is a committed team of conservationists on the scene to try and help.
Walrus Islands State Game Sanctuary is joined by Qayassiq Walrus Commission, an Indigenous coalition that has brought together seven nearby Yupiaq communities with a centuries-old connection to the land - and the walruses. Their old traditions involve hunting walruses and relying on them for food and other resources. But as National Geographic explains, the communities' wisdom can help preserve these majestic creatures as well. "Our traditional lifestyle is the most important thing to us," explained the organization's leader, Heidi Kritz. And it also holds the key to a sustainable future for the Pacific walrus.
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