First walrus born at N.Y. Aquarium dies

Sept. 2, 2009 at 10:14 PM
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NEW YORK, Sept. 2 (UPI) -- A Pacific walrus born 26 months ago at the New York Aquarium died there of pneumonia, officials announced Wednesday.

Jon Forrest Dohlin, the director of the aquarium, said Akituusaq was a "big growing boy, so happy and healthy" until he stopped eating several days ago, The New York Times reported. The walrus was given antibiotics but died Tuesday.

Akituusaq was the first walrus born at the aquarium on Coney Island, June 12, 2007. Like many other Brooklynites, he was a child of immigrants, Ayveq and Kulusiq, who arrived at the aquarium after losing their mothers in a legal hunt by Inuit in the Bering Strait.

During his short life, Akituusaq grew from 115 pounds to 320 pounds and was viewed by about 1 million visitors to the aquarium. His life was lived in public, with his name, Yupik for "gift given in return," chosen in a referendum and announced on the "Today" show.

"He was a great ambassador for wildlife," Dohlin said. "He was a bright little fellow, very charismatic."

The walrus' death was "devastating for the staff," Dohlin said.

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