Walrus Calves Rescued in Alaska Find New Homes at the Indianapolis Zoo and WCS’s New York Aquarium

Young walruses received 24-hour care and rehabilitation at Alaska SeaLife Center


Around-the-clock veterinary care will continue at New York Aquarium

Brooklyn, N.Y. – Oct. 10, 2012 – Two male walrus calves orphaned off the coast near Barrow, Alaska, will be given new homes at the Indianapolis Zoo and the Wildlife Conservation Society’s New York Aquarium.

Struggling to survive in the wild after losing their mothers, the unrelated calves were discovered by local fishermen about a week apart in July. In both cases, each calf was badly dehydrated and in poor health. Alaska SeaLife Center staff responded to Barrow to assist in stabilizing the calves for transport to Anchorage and then to the Alaska SeaLife Center's facility in Seward for medical care and rehabilitation.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recommended that the walruses, Mitik and Pakak, be sent to the New York Aquarium and the Indianapolis Zoo respectively. Both facilities have personnel at the Alaska SeaLife Center working with the walruses in preparation for the move. They will continue to receive around-the-clock care once they arrive in their new homes.

Mitik, the calf coming to the New York Aquarium, has been experiencing health problems and is receiving veterinary care since he arrived in Seward. His prognosis is good, but he will receive medical support once he arrives in New York.

“Mitik has been showing signs of improvement thanks to the dedication and expertise of the Alaska SeaLife Center team, New York Aquarium staff on-site, and the Indianapolis Zoo staff all working together,” said WCS Vice President and New York Aquarium Director Jon Forrest Dohlin. “He is not out of the woods yet, but we are hopeful he will make a full recovery. Because Mitik and Pakak were orphaned at such a young age they would not be able to survive in the wild.”

Pakak, the calf heading to the Indianapolis Zoo, has been under veterinary care and is doing well. Like Mitik, he is being carefully monitored every day and every precaution is being taken to ensure his health.

“Pakak, along with longtime Indianapolis Zoo walrus Aurora, gives us a great opportunity to educate our visitors about the changing climate in the Arctic, and how that affects all wildlife there, including walrus and polar bears," said Dr. Robert Shumaker, Vice President of Life Sciences at the Indianapolis Zoo.

Both calves are under 24-hour watch and being hand-raised and bottle-fed every four hours. The calves receive a nutritious walrus formula rich in vitamins and minerals. Both will be bottle fed until they are fully weaned.

New York Aquarium staff is hopeful that Mitik will make his public debut and join the aquarium’s other two walruses in the Sea Cliffs exhibit sometime next year. Martha Hiatt, New York Aquarium Animal Department Supervisor in charge of Training and Enrichment, has been in Alaska working with the calves. She has observed that, despite any health issues, Mitik is active and enjoys interacting with people.

Walruses are facing 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 be playing a role in spreading disease among populations. Earlier this year, WCS held a workshop where Native American groups, scientists, and government agencies from both the Russian Federation and United States met to address the need for effective responses to climate-driven increases in the numbers of Pacific walrus using land-based “haul-outs” during summer and fall months.

The Wildlife Conservation Society is working to save walruses and other wildlife around the world. On Saturday, October 6, the New York Aquarium hosted the second annual WCS Run for the Wild 5k run or family fun run/walk in Brooklyn. This year’s event was dedicated to saving walruses.

Wildlife Conservation Society's New York Aquarium opens every day of the year at 10am, and closing times vary seasonally. Admission is $14.95 for adults, $10.95 for children ages 3-12 and $11.95 for senior citizens (65 and older); children under 3 years of age are admitted free. Fridays after 3pm, admission is by suggested donation. The Aquarium is located on Surf Avenue at West 8th Street in Coney Island. For directions, information on public events and programs, and other Aquarium information, call 718-265-FISH or visit our web site at http://www.nyaquarium.com. Now is the perfect time to visit and show support for the New York Aquarium, Brooklyn's most heavily attended attraction and a beloved part of the City of New York.

The Wildlife Conservation Society saves wildlife and wild places worldwide. We do so through science, global conservation, education and the management of the world’s largest system of urban wildlife parks, led by the flagship Bronx Zoo. Together these activities change attitudes towards nature and help people imagine wildlife and humans living in harmony. WCS is committed to this mission because it is essential to the integrity of life on Earth.

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. For additional information, visit www.alaskasealife.org.

About the Indianapolis Zoo: Located in White River State Park downtown, the Indianapolis Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the American Association of Museums as a zoo, aquarium and botanical garden. The Indianapolis Zoo empowers people and communities, both locally and globally, to advance animal conservation.

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