05 September 2012 Orphaned Baby Walrus Charms our Alaska Program Director, Karla Dutton! Posted by: Karla Dutton | 23 comments | Share: Quite often in our wildlife conservation jobs, we find ourselves spending far too much time at our desks, instead of viewing the very wildlife we work to protect. That changed for me this past weekend, when I was thrilled to volunteer at the Alaska SeaLife Center (ASLC) to help care for a walrus calf that was orphaned in July when it was separated from its herd off of Barrow, Alaska. The ASLC is the northern most arctic marine research facility, the only permanent stranding facility for marine mammals in Alaska. It also houses a research facility and a public aquarium. In my role as a trained volunteer, I’ve assisted with the care of Steller sea lions, arctic seabirds, and seals. Working with the walrus calf was a very unique experience. Walruses, or more specifically in this case Pacific walruses (Odobenus rosmarus divergens), are large flippered marine mammals that live in remote arctic locations. Adult males can weigh more than 3,700 lbs. and, among pinnipeds (the family that includes walruses, seals, and sea lions), are exceeded in size only by the two species of the elephant seal. Walruses prefer to haul out on sea ice over the continental shelf, near their main food source of mollusks and crustaceans. But as Arctic sea ice shrinks each year, it becomes more difficult for them to find a safe location to rest and raise their calves safely near their feeding grounds. The young walrus is healthy and happy, thanks to excellent care by volunteers and SeaLife Center staff. Knowing about the challenges walruses face made meeting the orphaned calf even more special. Staff and trained volunteers at the Alaska SeaLife Center care for the calf (who I called Walter) and another walrus calf 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I worked three four-hour shifts, during which we prepared walrus formula and fed the calf every three hours. He now weighs about 300 pounds! When we were not feeding or cleaning up after him, we spent time with him while he played in his pool filled with icy cold water or explored his pen. He has since been named Pakak, which means “one who that into everything” in Inupiaq. This adorable video was taken soon after he arrived: Walrus are very tactile and social animals. The dedicated staff and volunteer caretakers provide the social interaction that he would otherwise receive from other walruses. Walrus calves almost immediately habituate to human care, and therefore cannot be released into the wild after being rehabilitated. So the two orphaned walrus will be placed in an aquarium with other walruses in the fall. Like the iconic polar bear, they will become ambassadors for Arctic wildlife. Here’s Pakak in a later video enjoying his baby pool, which it looks like he may outgrow very soon! To learn more http://www.alaskasealife.org/New/rehabilitation/index.php?page=firstpage.php 23 Responses to “Orphaned Baby Walrus Charms our Alaska Program Director, Karla Dutton!” Diana September 6th, 2012 This baby orphaned walrus needs his own Pakak Facebook page. Loved the video and info. Thanks for sharing. Reply Peter Schneider, Dr.med.vet. October 20th, 2012 Walter is really a cute walrus baby. I am a fan of the Defenders and admire Ms. Karla Dutton. Kind regards, Peter Kieghley crawford September 6th, 2012 This made me smile. I have fallen in love with walruses. I am so proud of the brilliant human beings that take care of these beautiful creatures! Thank you and God bless Reply Yvonne Muir September 6th, 2012 This is a beautiful story and having the absolute pleasure of visiting the centre I can only congratulate them and their dedicated team of volunteers on an amazing job:) Reply dig that crow strut September 7th, 2012 Reading this story made my heart smile! Pakak is just darling!! Many thanks to all the folks who cared for the lil’ guy!!! …….Bless you all! Reply Craig October 12th, 2012 Thank you for providing this rehab and time for these beautiful creatures. Reply Sue October 12th, 2012 I think Walter aka Pakak is adorable and I am s glad that the volunteers and workers at this facility are taking such good care of him. I can Walter loves attention and lots’ of affection. He’s just an all around cutie pie. I wish Walter a happy, joyous and very long life.. Reply paula campos October 12th, 2012 the walrus is adorable! Reply Juli October 12th, 2012 It brought tears to my eyes to see him scoot his way to the “babysitters” to snuggle up with them. PRECIOUS. Reply Suzana Hauer October 13th, 2012 What a nice story and great work to do. I would love to have a job like that. Thank you. It made me smile! Reply Linda October 13th, 2012 So adorable!!!! I am so glad that there are all these good people taking care of Walter and so many other animals. Reply John P. Jackson October 13th, 2012 Partsanism may not be appreciated on this forum but, I’ll wager, that almost all of the folks that voted for this foolish bill had R after their names. Reply hakusan October 13th, 2012 “… of such as these is the Kingdom of Heaven.” Reply linda October 13th, 2012 Aww. how sweet. Walruses are so oute. If you see this video and dont at least smile you are not alive. Thanks for sharing, and for taking such good care of them. Reply Claudia October 13th, 2012 This is MIRACULOUS! LOVE it! Wish I could work with one! Heartbreaking AND heartwarming at the same time! Reply Suzanne October 14th, 2012 God bless you for having such wonderful people and a wonderful program to take care of this walrus and other stranded critters…such sweet animals. It broke my heart to watch him snuggle up to the caretaker. Reply ilaria October 14th, 2012 I had never seen this kind of seal before…It is so lovely,wish I was there to play with this creature! Reply Mary M October 17th, 2012 He’s a pinniped, a close relative to the seal and sea lion. tammy October 15th, 2012 too bad that after all that effort, the walrus is going to an aquarium. no one else is bothered by this? it would also be nice if every rescue story wasn’t about ‘cute’. when are we going to see a story about ‘cute’ spiders? Reply Gerri C. October 15th, 2012 Saw the story about him on the news the other day. He’s so precious. Thank you for taking care of him and the other orphans that need your help. Reply Mary M October 17th, 2012 Ooh he’s so cute. Look at those whiskers! What a sweetheart. Reply Larry October 24th, 2012 ‘Great story! I hadn’t thought that walruses were that trainable. Thanks for all you do! Reply Ann March 17th, 2013 Is this the same one that was in the New York pool? I saw them this past summer and fell in love with them in the Artic Ocean. Years ago Olga was a darlin in the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago Reply Post Your Comment Click here to cancel reply. Name (required) Mail (required) (will not be published) You May also be interested in Literary Legacy Terry Tempest Williams is a widely published author and naturalist and a fierce advocate for ecological consciousness and social change. Big Things Coming from the Northwest Defenders of Wildlife work in the Northwest creates opportunities to promote wildlife protection and sustainable management of public lands. 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