“Haulout” is the latest short movie written and directed by Maxim Arbugaev and explores the time when pinnipeds like walruses and sea lions are forced to come ashore to rest and feed because of global warming, which is melting the Arctic ice caps at high speed. The movie introduces the audience to Maxim Chakhilev, a marine biologist who has devoted his life to researching and working toward the well-being of marine creatures. Every autumn, for the last 10–12 years, Maxim has studied the largest walrus haulout on the planet, and this series brilliantly explores one of his quests.
What Is ‘Haulout’?
The short film is set in a Russian Arctic region and chronicles Maxim Chakhilev, a marine biologist who oscillates his hours between walking on the endless beach and sweeping through the pages of the book he has kept with himself for company. Maxim has been living in a wooden cabin near the beach, waiting to see and witness the natural event dubbed “Haulout” that unfolds here every year, but unfortunately, it has yet to arrive. Maxim is woken by loud grunts and soft whistles a couple of days later and is shocked to see that over 1000 walruses have migrated to the beach. In layman’s terms, “haulout” refers to the location onshore or on the ice where marine mammals such as seals, sea lions, and walruses would stop to rest and refuel in between feeding trips. To document what he is seeing, Maxim pulls out his tape recorder. The haulout is on the peak, and the coast is completely teeming with pinnipeds, as far as the eye can see. According to an estimate, there are more than 95,000 walruses on the beach, with hundreds, maybe thousands, in the surrounding waters. The ice has melted, offering the walruses a perfect spot to rest and unwind.
The Haulout And Ensuing Troubles For Pinnipeds
Since Maxim’s cabin was right on the beach, walruses couldn’t help but wander into it, putting Maxim at risk. Maxim had blocked the entrance with a piece of timber to keep them out, but he knew that this was just a stopgap measure until he could locate somewhere more secure to carry out his work. Walruses, unless pushed or threatened, do not often exhibit aggressive behavior when on dry ground. When these pinnipeds are in their native environment and are not bothered, they are rather quiet and gentle creatures. In reality, pinnipeds on the shore are regularly observed napping, relaxing, or mingling with one another. Nonetheless, walruses may grow protective and violent if they sense danger or if they see people or even other creatures as threats. Most notably in adult pinnipeds, territoriality may lead to aggressive behaviour toward other adults or strangers who go too near their sleeping area. The haulout comes with its own set of flaws. Since walruses arrive on the shore weak and exhausted after travelling thousands of miles from open waters, their weak state often leads to panic and stampedes, injuring others in their flocks. During the mating period, when male pinnipeds battle for females, fights might break out throughout the hauling period, resulting in injuries to both parties. Male walruses create domains on the snow or adjoining shore and protect themselves ferociously from other adults. While competing for territory with other males, they utilise their sharp tusks and bulk to their advantage. Rampages are a serious threat to these creatures, particularly if they’re obliged to haul out in dangerous places such as on high, jagged rocks or fragile snow. Stampedes may occur when a large group of walruses becomes agitated and frequently startled due to close quarters. This may force walruses to thrash against one another in their fear, culminating in injury or even fatality. Once the crowd began to thin out, Maxim left his wooden cottage to carry out his research and came across hundreds of dead walruses near the shore, possibly perishing due to conflicts, stampedes, or infection. When these pinnipeds are huddled together for a lengthy duration, as they often are throughout haulouts, they increase the risk of illness and parasitic transmission amongst each other. This has the potential to spread disease and threaten the well-being of an entire populace by triggering illnesses like folliculitis as well as other ailments.
‘Haulout’ Ending Explained – How Does Climate Change Affect Walrus Haulout?
Maxim expects over 100,000 walruses during the peak haulout, and climate change can be credited for this mass gathering. Pinniped haulouts are being severely affected by global warming and other ecological imbalances, especially in the Arctic region, where glaciers are disappearing at startling speed. The ocean caps provide these creatures with a stable surface on which to relax, feed, and mate; as it breaks and swims toward the north, more and more of these animals will have to unwind out on the shore for prolonged periods. If there aren’t enough ice caps to support a walrus crowd, the animals will have to schlep onto land, where it might become congested, and they have to fight over sustenance. When severe circumstances arise, like pileups, this may result in violence, physical harm, and more. Since walruses are spending more time on soil than they have ever hauled out, their disposal and stomping have the potential to degrade the bumpy ledges and coastline on which they depend for food and shelter. This can result in soil deterioration and compression, which in turn can hinder plant growth and ultimately result in the destruction of the ecosystem.
As pinnipeds congregate on the shore for the winter, they become easy targets for carnivores like polar bears and humans, who may reap the benefits of the confined space to kill. In short, walruses are in danger because global warming is upsetting the northern ecosystem’s fragile equilibrium. To safeguard these wonderful creatures, it is vital to undertake measures to decrease carbon output and ameliorate the consequences of climate change. In 2020, Maxim counted nearly 600 deaths, the most he had ever recorded in his decade-long study. The walrus is safeguarded by worldwide statute, although it is still subject to poaching and illegal hunting in some regions for its meat, tusks, as well as other organs, and their haulout on land, gives poachers an excellent opportunity to hunt them. Poaching may disrupt herds and limit evolutionary divergence, presenting challenges for pinnipeds to adapt to shifting ecological predicaments.