SeaWorld Orlando’s new baby walrus is gaining an average of two pounds a day after vets discovered she was failing to gain weight and started hand feeding the calf.
The calf has gained 33 pounds since she began bottle feeding, weighing in at a healthy 133 pounds.
“Our sweet walrus calf is doing very, very well,” said Susan Story, spokesperson for SeaWorld. “She’s healthy and thriving.”
The calf, born June 3, was the first walrus born at the park.
SeaWorld uncharacteristically waited 10 days to announce her birth. The theme park has experienced two unexpected newborn deaths this year. A Commerson’s dolphin calf died shortly after birth May 20 at Aquatica. A newborn beluga died July 7.
The walrus calf, which has not been named, is one of five walruses in the park. Her mother, Kaboodle, and father, Garfield, perform in the Clyde and Seamore Show.
Initially, SeaWorld sent out a release saying the mother and calf bonded well but a recent SeaWorld Cares blog noted that their vets noticed the new baby was not gaining weight.
“Just like any new parent, we have recorded the amount of time the calf nurses, how often the calf went to the bathroom, how long naps last and everything in between,” the release said. “Through this documentation and observation, our team noticed that the calf did not seem to be growing as quickly as we expected from all of its nursing.”
The mother and calf were weighed together on a large scale that confirmed the vet’s assumptions and they decided to intervene with a feeding tube for 36 hours before she was weaned to bottle feeding on a formula designed to mimic walrus milk. It’s the same formula Kaboodle was fed when she was hand raised by SeaWorld San Diego.
Kaboodle’s calf is active, gaining weight and has a healthy appetite. The calf will remain back stage as the veterinary team continues to monitor her progress around the clock.
The new mother has returned to her habitat in the Wild Arctic and vets hope to reunite mother and calf soon.
Vocal opponents of keeping animals in captivity, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) criticized SeaWorld for continuing to breed their animals. Last year, SeaWorld agreed to stop breeding killer whales following protests from animal rights activists.
“While infant animals keep dying at SeaWorld, the company keeps breeding more animals to sentence to life in prison inside tiny tanks,” said Delcianna Winders, vice president and deputy general counsel of captive animal law enforcement for the PETA Foundation. “It should be moving marine mammals to seaside sanctuaries, not patting itself on the back for perpetuating a cycle of deprivation and death.”