Pakak and Mitik romp and grow in I.Sea.U
Alaska SeaLife Center
Walrus, Pakak and Mitik, cavort in their play pool in the i.Sea.U at Alaska SeaLife Center.
The Alaska SeaLife Center’s I.Sea.U is a busy place, housing two engaging male walrus calves and rotating teams of human caregivers around the clock.
The two walrus were found stranded near Barrow in July. They were rescued one week apart, arriving in Seward on July 22 and July 30. After admission to the Center, the calves were initially housed separately. Last month, Center veterinarian Dr. Carrie Goertz determined that the animals could be housed together, explaining, “In the previous week, the younger calf made huge strides towards overcoming various complications and began to suckle from a bottle. Walrus are very social animals, and joint housing will enable the walrus to learn to socialize together and provide companionship to each other.”
Center staff have nicknamed the animals Pakak and Mitik. Pakak, the larger walrus who was first to arrive, is approximately 315 pounds at about 12 weeks old. Pakak means “one that gets into everything” in Inupiaq and was initially suggested because fishermen first found him tugging on their fishing nets. Caregivers report that the name is indeed fitting. Mitik, the smaller and younger walrus, is approximately 175 pounds at about 9 weeks old. The name Mitik was suggested by the daughter of one of the rescuers who helped to care for the calf in Barrow immediately following his rescue.
Visitors to the center on Aug. 26 stood in front of one-way windows overlooking the new I.Sea.U critical care facility and were treated to a front-row view of the unannounced introduction of the two calves. 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. Interpreters stationed adjacent to the I.Sea.U facility have enjoyed answering visitor questions about Pakak, Mitik and walrus in general.
The unexpected around-the-clock care of two walrus calves was a challenge met squarely by the center with the assistance of visiting animal care staff from Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium and SeaWorld San Diego. Staff members who normally work in administrative and educational areas have been volunteering to assist on overnight shifts as summer interns depart Seward and return to school. Donors from across the country have provided the financial resources key to maintaining the animals. “We have no federal or state funding to care for stranded walrus calves and we rely on donations to keep this program going,” said Tara Riemer Jones, president and CEO of the Alaska SeaLife Center. Major corporate contributors to the wildlife rescue program include Shell Exploration and Production, ConocoPhillips Alaska, and BP Alaska.