Baby Walrus Dies at New York Aquarium

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Baby Walrus picture

Akituusaq, the two year-old baby walrus who passed away at the age of two. Photo: J.L. Maher. ©Wildlife Conservation Society.

A historic baby walrus has passed away after battling pneumonia. The two year-old walrus, named Akituusaq, was the first Pacific walrus to be born in the 113-year history of the New York Aquarium, located on Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York.

"It was heartbreaking," the Aquarium's director, Jon Forrest Dohlin, told Paw Nation. "He was just a magnificent animal and meant a lot to the Aquarium and conservationists." According to the Wildlife Conservation Society, walrus births in aquariums are extremely rare, with very few surviving past the first year.

Akituusaq was born on June 12, 2007 to a female walrus named Kulu, said Dohlin. "The mom had been an orphan who was hand-raised here, so we weren't sure how her mothering instincts would be," explained Dohlin. But Kulu knew how to care for Akituuasaq and the baby walrus seemed to be thriving until he suddenly fell ill.

Veterinarians battled around the clock to save the baby walrus -- including inserting a catheter to get fluids and antibiotics into him -- but Akituusaq died on September 1st.

According to the Brooklyn Paper, Akituusaq's father, Ayveq, died last June from a bacterial infection, but Kulu is still alive. "If there is any fortunate side to this," said Dohlin, "is that Kulu had already started to wean Akituusaq and separate from him voluntarily. In the wild, she would have been pushing him away by this time." That transition seems to have made the loss of Akituusaq easier for Kulu. The mother hasn't exhibited any signs of stress or agitation. "So far -- fingers crossed -- she's been fine and there's been nothing untoward," said Dohlin.

Rest in peace, Akituusaq.

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