A Welcome for a Walrus
The New York Aquarium in Coney Island gets a new baby walrus
A rather large package arrived at the New York Aquarium last week—a 234-pound baby walrus was inside! The 15-week-old walrus, named Mitik, and another walrus, named Pakak, were rescued by fishermen off the Alaskan coast in July. The orphaned walruses were sent to the Alaska SeaLife Center, where they were cared for over the past three months.
Pakak was healthy when he was found, but Mitik (or Mit for short) was weak from several illnesses. He had to be fed through a tube until he learned to drink from a bottle. Once he started getting better, he was ready to move to his new home—the New York Aquarium. Mit traveled in a huge crate on a FedEx cargo jet, accompanied by a handler and a veterinarian.
The New York Aquarium, part of the Wildlife Conservation Society, is one of only seven places in the U.S. that house walruses. Another is the Indianapolis Zoo, where Pakak now lives.
Two female walruses, 17-year-old Kulu and 30-year-old Nuka, already live at the New York Aquarium. But they won’t meet Mit for a while. He’ll spend at least 30 days in the aquarium’s medical facility. There, staffers will monitor him 24 hours a day. They’ll teach him to eat clams, squid, and herring. Next spring, after Mit has met and had time to interact with Kulu and Nuka, he will join the aquarium’s exhibit so the public can meet him too.
An estimated 250,000 Pacific walruses live in the wild. They typically hang out on the Arctic sea ice in an area between the Bering, Chukchi, and Beaufort seas. But as the sea ice shrinks because of warming global climates, the walruses are losing their habitat. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has recommended that Pacific walruses be protected under the Endangered Species Act.
Because walruses are very social and, therefore, need to live with other walruses, New York Aquarium staffers had been looking to add to their walrus family. So they were thrilled to find Mit. “What’s driving this is Mit’s rescue. He’s an orphaned calf, and we have the room and expertise,” Jon Forrest Dohlin, the aquarium’s director, told The New York Times. “It’s a great opportunity for him and meets a number of our goals.”