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Alaska SeaLife Center Houses 2 Walrus Calves Together

August 30, 2012|By Chris Klint | Channel 2 News

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The Alaska SeaLife Center has decided to house two rescued male Pacific walrus calves together, after they were found stranded near Barrow in July and separately received intensive care at the center.

In a Thursday press release, the center says the calves -- nicknamed Pakak and Mitik by staff -- arrived in Seward on July 22 and July 30 respectively, but center veterinarian Dr. Carrie Goertz decided last week that they could be housed together.

“In the previous week, (Mitik) made huge strides towards overcoming various complications and began to suckle from a bottle,” Goertz said. “Walrus are very social animals, and joint housing will enable the walrus to learn to socialize together and provide companionship to each other.”

Pakak, the name given to the older calf, means “one that gets into everything” in Inupiaq -- a name he received after fishermen reported that he was getting into their nets. Mitik was named by the daughter of one of his initial rescuers, who helped care for him in Barrow.

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The center’s president, Tara Riemer Jones, says the facility originally took in Pakak last month with assistance from Northern Air Cargo, which flew him from Barrow to Anchorage then helped drive him to Seward.

Mitik is one of two additional rescued walrus calves believed to be from the same group as Pakak, which was spotted drifting past Barrow on ice July 17. The pair were flown to Anchorage by a U.S. Coast Guard aircraft then taken to Seward, but the second calf died about a day later from complications including severe malnutrition, dehydration and systemic illness.

The walrus calves are being housed in the center’s new “I.Sea.U” critical care unit, where visitors were able to watch their introduction through one-way windows Sunday. Pakak presently weighs about 315 pounds and is about 12 weeks old, while Mitik weighs about 175 pounds and is about nine weeks old.

“In the ensuing days, the animals have become close companions, nuzzling each other, exploring their enclosure, napping together, and taking turns chasing each other around their pool,” center staff wrote. “Interpreters stationed adjacent to the I.Sea.U facility have enjoyed answering visitor questions about Pakak, Mitik, and walrus in general.”

Center staff have been helped in providing around-the-clock care for the walrus by visiting staffers from Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium and SeaWorld San Diego, with local employees volunteering to assist on overnight shifts.

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