Why did Scarborough cancel its New Year’s Eve fireworks? Thor the Walrus’ arrival explained

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Scarborough Borough Council decided to cancel its New Year’s Eve fireworks display

While other parts of England also celebrated the New Year with fireworks displays, the North Yorkshire seaside town of Scarborough did not.

The annual display was cancelled after an unusal visitor arrived on Friday (30 December). Thor, a wandering walrus, has delighted locals and tourists after appearing in the town.

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The marine mammal arrived in Scarborough on Friday night and has drawn huge crowds to the harbour on New Year’s Eve. The Arctic walrus is believed to be Thor – the same animal that was spotted on the Hampshire coastline earlier this month.

Local wildlife experts have asked people not to disturb the creature, saying he appears to be “taking a break” in Scarborough and will move on in a few days once he is rested enough to continue his journey north. It is believed to be the first time a walrus has been spotted in Yorkshire, and a cordon has been put around him to keep excited crowds from getting too close.

RSPCA inspector Geoff Edmond, who was with the walrus on Friday (30 December) night and Saturday (31 December) morning, said it does not appear to be sick or injured, and encouraged people to enjoy the sight from a respectful distance. Mr Edmond said: “We understand it’s exciting and unusual to have the walrus take up a temporary residence, however, it’s in his best interests to be left alone as much as possible, so we’re asking people to remember he is a wild animal and avoid the temptation to get near to him and disturb him.

“We would also remind everyone that the walrus is protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981, and so disturbing the animal may constitute an offence.”

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Why was the Scarborough fireworks display cancelled?

Scarborough Borough Council cancelled the fireworks display on the advice of British Divers Marine Life Rescue after the organisation expressed concerns that it could cause “distress” to the mammal. However, our sister website the Yorkshire Evening Post reports that Thor the walrus actually swam away prior to midnight.

Resident Richard Coulson, 51, told the PA news agency: “I live just round the corner from where it actually is and the traffic up and down our road – it’s just like a summer’s day, it really is absolutely teeming with cars and people. It’s amazing how much attention it’s brought.

Undated handout photo issued by Stuart Ford of a walrus at Scarborough Harbour Picture: PA. Issue date: Saturday December 31, 2022.Undated handout photo issued by Stuart Ford of a walrus at Scarborough Harbour Picture: PA. Issue date: Saturday December 31, 2022.
Undated handout photo issued by Stuart Ford of a walrus at Scarborough Harbour Picture: PA. Issue date: Saturday December 31, 2022. | PA

“It’s been well protected – it’s been cordoned off so you can’t get within 20 feet of it. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen one. It’s huge. We see seals quite regularly round Scarborough coastline but something of that size, it’s enormous.

“You respect nature when you see something of that size. Its tusks are bigger than my arms.”

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Once-in-a-life event

Stuart Ford, who runs the Sealife Safari boat tour agency, told PA: “I was going down to my boat and there it was on the slipway – magnificent. It’s got to be half a ton. I think it’s a once-in-a-lifetime, first-time-ever thing in Scarborough to see.”

The Sea Life Scarborough aquarium said its animal care team is monitoring the walrus’s situation, along with the RSPCA and British Divers Marine Life Rescue. They wrote on social media: “Please do not worry – he appears well and is just taking a well deserved rest after his long adventure!

“Please be respectful of his rest and try not to disturb him. While it is a very exciting opportunity for us, naturally they do not like lots of noise and are not familiar with domestic animals so please keep pets on leads and remain a safe distance for your own welfare and his. Hopefully within a few days he will have got enough rest to move on and continue his adventures North!”

Is it the same walrus spotted in Hampshire?

The Arctic walrus is believed to be Thor – the same animal that was spotted on the Hampshire coastline earlier this month.

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