This past Saturday, local fisherman spotted an orphan Pacific Walrus calf on floating ice near Barrow, Alaska. After a period of observation from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a rescue was approved and Alaska SeaLife Center staff and a local veterinarian prepared the 200lb. baby for airlift to Anchorage and transport by modified truck to ASLC in Seward.
The calf is suckling readily from a bottle, feeding every three hours around the clock, and consuming nearly 1,400 calories at each feed. He is actively seeking attention from care-givers, and vocalizing when left alone. “Walrus are incredibly tactile, social animals,” said Stranding Coordinator Tim Lebling. “Walrus calves typically spend about two years with their mothers, so we have to step in to provide that substitute care and companionship.” Walrus calves almost immediately habituate to human care and therefore are not candidates for release following rehabilitation.
The video below is one of the most touching ZooBorns has had the privilige to share
The calf appears to be in good condition; however, Center veterinarians have identified and are addressing some health concerns while performing additional diagnostic testing to better understand his condition. If you would like to contribute to this calf's care, you can do so here.
More photos and information below the fold
The Pacific Walrus is a candidate for Endangered Species Act protection, mainly due to the threat that loss of sea ice could have on walrus population numbers. Pacific Walrus use floating sea ice to give birth, nurse calves, avoid predators, and as a platform for feeding.
The Alaska SeaLife Center is the only permanent marine rehabilitation center in Alaska, responding to stranded wildlife such as sea otters, harbor seals, and walrus. The Stranding Program responds to walrus with the authorization of the USFWS. The Center responded to four stranded walrus calves between 2003 and 2007, but this is the first walrus to be admitted in thelast five years. Once a stranded marine mammal is admitted to the ASLC, it receives care from experienced and dedicated veterinary and animal care staff.
“We have no federal or state funding to care for stranded walrus calves, and we rely on donations to keep this program going. We especially thank Shell Exploration and Production, ConocoPhillips Alaska, and BP Alaska for their generous contributions to the Center in support of wildlife rescue,” said Tara Riemer Jones, president and CEO.
The Alaska SeaLife Center operates a 24-hour hotline for the public to report stranded marine mammals or birds, and encourages people who have found a stranded or sick marine animal to avoid touching or approaching the animal; instead, those individuals should call 1-888-774-SEAL (7325).
The Alaska SeaLife Center is a private non-profit research institution and visitor attraction which generates and shares scientific knowledge to promote understanding and stewardship of Alaska’s marine ecosystems. The Alaska SeaLife Center is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums.