The dramatic journey of two male Pacific Walrus calves, found stranded this summer near Barrow, Alaska, made a huge leap forward this week when they arrived at their new permanent homes – the Indianapolis Zoo and the Wildlife Conservation Society’s New York Aquarium.
The touching stories of Mitik and Pakak, each just a few months old, began when they were found alone and suffering from dehydration on separate occasions in late July. The tale of their rescue and rehabilitation at the Alaska SeaLife Center was first chronicled by ZooBorns on July 27 and their progress updated on August 10. Readers around the world were captivated by the way the calves immediately bonded with their caregivers through touching and snuggling.
Walrus are very tactile and social animals, and the dedicated staff and caretakers at the SeaLife Center provided the social interaction that the calves needed. Walrus calves almost immediately adjust to human care, so they are not candidates for release back into the wild.
Because the SeaLife Center is it not large enough to permanently house all the wildlife it rescues, Pakak moved last week to the Indianapolis Zoo and Mitik traveled to the New York Aquarium. The staffs at each institution are understandably thrilled with their new arrivals, but fans will have to wait awhile to see the new calves: both will undergo a routine quarantine period, with numerous health checks, before being introduced to the adult Walruses living at each zoo. It may be several months before the calves are seen by the public.
The 24-hour care the calves received at the Alaska SeaLife Center continues in their new homes, fulfilling their nutritional and social needs until they are introduced to their new companions. In Indianapolis, Patak will join longtime zoo resident Aurora; Mitik will share the New York Aquarium’s exhibit with Kulu, age 17, and Nuka, age 30.
Both calves were in poor health at the timke of their rescue, but have steadily improved during their rehabilitation period. The calves currently weigh about 240 pounds, and as adults they could weigh more than 1,500 pounds.
Walruses face environmental threats in their Arctic habitat. Because of the lack of suitable ice, more and more Walruses are congregating on land. Overcrowding in these areas may play a role in spreading disease among populations.
Photo Credits (top to bottom): Sybille Castro; Alaska SeaLife Center; Shauna Gallagher, Indianapolis Zoo; Indianapolis Zoo