He's an adorable, 400-pound bundle of joy and he will soon join the growing family of animals at the Indianapolis Zoo!
An orphaned male Pacific walrus calf found off the northern coast of Alaska is scheduled to arrive in Indianapolis by Oct. 10, 2012, and if all goes well with the acclimation to his new home, he could be on exhibit for the public to see sometime later this year.
The calf is believed to have been separated from a group of about 1,000 walruses that were sighted passing the Alaskan northern slope of Barrow, Alaska, in mid-July. After the calf was observed alone for several days, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services (USFWS) felt it was time to step in.
At the time of his rescue, the then-250-pound calf was estimated to be 4-6 weeks old — far too young to be without his mother — and suffering from dehydration and lice. In the wild, a walrus calf commonly stays with his mother for at least two years.
Since his rescue the calf has been in the care of the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward, which provides care for sick and injured marine animals. Almost immediately the calf showed a very curious personality, and the SeaLife Center staff named him Pakak (PUCK’-UK), which means “one that gets into everything” in the northern Alaskan dialect of Inupiaq (ee-NYOOP-ee-ak).
A week after Pakak’s rescue an even younger orphaned male walrus rescue was brought to Seward. The two calves have been living together since late July (that's the two of them snuggling together, at left).
Walrus are very tactile and social animals, and the dedicated staff and caretakers at the SeaLife Center provided the social interaction that a walrus calf would otherwise seek from other walrus. As a result, walrus calves almost immediately adjust to human care and therefore are not candidates for release back into the wild following rehabilitation. Watch this cute video of Pakak from the SeaLife Center.
However, because the SeaLife Center is it not large enough to be the permanent home to all the wildlife it rescues, the Indianapolis Zoo was honored to be selected by the USFWS to be selected as Pakak's permanent home (Check out Indianapolis Zoo marine mammal trainer Shauna Gallagher bonding with Pakak in Alaska, at right). Similarly, the New York Aquarium was chosen as the second calf’s new permanent home.
Providing a safe and healthy living environment for rescued wildlife is a prime example of how zoos help make a positive difference in animal welfare and animal conservation.
Among other wildlife rescues currently in the Indianapolis Zoo’s marine mammal collection are Taz, an Atlantic bottlenose dolphin; Ray, a California sea lion; Pepper, a grey seal; and Tak, a harbor seal.
After arriving at the Zoo, Pakak will go into a mandatory 30-day quarantine, which is a standard policy for newly acquired animals as a precaution to protect all animals at the Indianapolis Zoo.
Following the holding period, he will join Aurora in the walrus exhibit. Indianapolis Zoo babies are presented by Community Health Network.