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Picture Book: Narwhal tusk, Innuvik, Canada

Carved narwhal Tusk from Baffin Island, 130 cm high. For location see: [1].

Narwhal, the mysterious animal from the North, a 3-5 m long whale with a tusk of 1.5 to2.5 m. Common questions are: “Where is it used for? Don't they hurt themselves with this pointy horn?” It turns out to be a sensor, the inside full of nerves, and helps them in the navigation in murky shallow waters.

In the Middle Ages the tusk was thought to be from the Unicorn, the mythical horse with a single horn. Its value higher than gold. Together with walrus ivory, this was a major source of income for the Vikings living on Greenland.

Exact numbers are not known, there are 60,000 to 80,000 around Baffin Bay, between Canada and East Greenland. They are protected, only Innuits can harvest them at strict quota and sell the tusk in Canada and Greenland. However, not to Europe as there is an import ban as part of the strict regulations on all ivory trade, including elephants and walrus.

In the early spring and summer they move to shallow fiords to hide for Killer Whales which hunt them. Also see a set of pictures from Baffin Island below and a unique BBC documentary from 10 February 2009, see [1].

Narwhal pictures by Paul Nicklen, see [1]

More on Narwhals, habitat in Canada, etc.: After Fisheries and Oceans Canada

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