October 10, 2012 9:59 am
From Alaska’s oceans, a hunting vessel plucked out a 15-week-old stranded baby walrus out of the cold water, weak from illness and underfed. It was that baby’s lucky day. Rescuers rushed the young walrus to the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward, where handlers began nursing him back to health, dubbing him Mitik—or Mit, for short.
When he arrived at the aquarium in late July, Mit suffered from bladder problems, but after a tedious regime of catheters and feeding tubes, at last he gained enough strength to suck from a bottle and began putting on a pound per day. He joined a second orphaned baby walrus, Pak, in his recovery period. As he gained strength, Mit’s starring personality began shining through. One of the aquarium’s supervisors described Mit’s spunky attitude to the The New York Times:
“If Mit is resting with his head on my lap, sucking my fingers, looking sweetly into my eyes, and Pak comes anywhere near us, he pops up, yells at Pak and tries to head-butt him. Then he’ll turn to me and be all cuddly again. We say he is small, but scrappy — the perfect New Yorker.”
Returned to good health, Mit will bid goodbye to Pak (who is headed to Indianapolis Zoo) and make a final journey tomorrow to the New York Aquarium at Coney Island. The baby already weighs 235 pounds, but it will be some months before he meets his new companions, two females weighing 1,278 and 1,850 pounds. First, Mit will have to go through quarantine and be weaned from the bottle to an adult diet of clams, squid and herring. Next spring, he’ll make his public debut in the exhibit.
Zookeepers are crossing their fingers that sparks fly between Mit and one of his female companions, Kulu. But even if things don’t work out between them, it’s Mit’s rescue that’s at the heart of the walrus operation, they told the Times.
More from Smithsonian.com:
Sign up for our free email newsletter and receive the best stories from Smithsonian.com each week.