Orphaned Baby Walruses Find Homes in 2 US Zoos

Oct 10, 2012 2:46pm
ap mitik walrus calf ll 121010 wblog Orphaned Baby Walruses Find Homes in 2 US Zoos

                                      (Image Credit: Monica Cooper/Alaska SeaLife Center/AP Photo)

They say that good things come in small packages. But for two zoos in the United States, two cute things are coming in two very big packages.

Just like other packages, the two cute things, baby walruses weighing 350 pounds and 234 pounds, will arrive at the zoos – the New York Aquarium and the Indianapolis Zoo – via Fed-Ex, in their own cargo jets.

The two walruses, named Mitik and Pakak, were found abandoned off the coast of Alaska in July after being separated from their herd of nearly 1,000 walruses. Local residents rescued the baby mammals and delivered them to the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward where they’ve been nursed back to health ever since.

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Though still fragile, the two whiskered sea creatures, now both around four months old, are well enough to travel to their permanent homes in the two zoos.

“These ‘little’ guys have been a ton of work, but the work was so satisfying that it was nearly impossible to be bothered by it,” Dr. Tara Jones, President of the Alaska SeaLife Center told ABCNews.com.  “We will miss those two very social, inquisitive animals that always wanted attention.”

Mitik, the smaller of the two at 234 pounds, is scheduled to arrive Thursday at the New York Aquarium, located just off the famous boardwalk of Coney Island in Brooklyn. The Aquarium is already home to two walruses, 1,278-pound Kulu, and 1,850-pound Nuka, but both females are aging so the new walrus blood is welcome.

“Our concern is that our very elderly walrus could pass away, as these things go,” Jon Forrest Dohlin, the aquarium’s director, told The New York Times. “That would leave us in a pickle because we really wouldn’t want to have a solitary animal.”

Before Mitik, nicknamed “Mit” for short, socializes with the females, he will have to undergo a 30-day quarantine to wean him from the human-fed bottle and introduce him to more walrus-like feedings like clams and squids, the Times reported. If he proceeds as scheduled, Mit will join Kulu and Nuka in the public exhibit next spring.

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Mit’s fellow orphan, Pakak, who goes by Pak, was scheduled to travel this week as well to his new home in the Indianapolis Zoo.  Pak will also undergo a 30-day quarantine, a standard practice anytime animals travel between institutions, according to Jones.

The estimated total cost to ship the two walruses to their respective new homes reportedly came to around $15,000, an amount paid for by the respective zoos.

“Our greatest hope is that these animals will grow into healthy adults who are a part of a strong social group,” Jones said.  “And throughout their lives, we hope that they inspire the public to learn about the arctic ecosystem that these amazing sea ice-dependent animals call home.”

Calls placed to the New York Aquarium and Indianapolis Zoo were not returned as of this writing.

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