(Labrador, Canada) Harp seal activist William Walkman has long been admired for his devotion to the cause of saving baby harp seals from their annual slaughter. For years, Walkman has lived among the seals, befriending them, and caring for the babies while the parents went off in search of food.
Walkman's story is made even more compelling through the video he has shot of himself interacting with the seals. On one day he is seen beating off a killer whale with a pole as it attempts to catch seals, a staple of the killer whale diet. The next day he is seen trying to feed fish to the baby seals, as adult seals nervously circle him, barking and pounding their tails on the ice in their attempts to protect their babies.
The camera captures a man obsessed with a mission, yet his motivation seems to be a blurred mixture of altruism and selfishness. His mood varies between elation and despair, and his rants against humanity for its uncaring use of baby seal pelts for fur seem, at times, strangely self-serving.
The video that Walkman has gathered of the seals presents an unnerving juxtaposition of the baby seals' cuteness with a life that is filled with danger on a daily basis. Sharks, polar bears, and killer whales are always on the hunt for the seals, and Walkman is often seen placing himself in between the hunter and the hunted. He is a self-appointed guardian, risking his life as he interrupts the natural course of nature.
The recent discovery of Walkman's body by some fishermen, beaten to death in his sleep, was met with widespread suspicion that seal hunters had taken matters into their own hands. But an investigation by Labrador provincial police has now revealed that blood samples taken from the tails of several adult seals match Walkman's blood.
The tragic death of Walkman is now believed to be the result of an attack by the adult seals, probably in the middle of the night while Walkman was trapped in his sleeping bag. The adult seals instinctive protectiveness over their pups was a force that Mr. Walkman could not overcome. Despite his near-fanatical care for their welfare, the seals role in the natural order of things was not to be interrupted.
Life for the seals will now go on as it had before, a life filled with danger, whether from sharks, killer whales, and polar bears, or from the men who arrive each year to club the young seals for their fur.
History will have to judge whether William Walkman was a champion of animal rights, or a lost soul who was just trying to restore some meaning in his lonely, tortured life… or, just maybe, some of both.
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