Meet Brooklyn’s newest transplant: he’s only four months old, and he’s already got the hippest mustache in town.
The New York Aquarium will welcome Mitik — a rambunctious, 250-pound baby walrus saved by kindly fisherman who spotted the orphan struggling in the open ocean off Alaska.
This new gentlemen of the sea will be the only male walrus in the Coney Island herd — and he’s already got plenty of fans.
“My gosh, he is the cutest thing ever,” said Nancy Anderson, executive assistant at the Alaska SeaLife Center, where the stranded calf regained his health after being plucked from the Arctic Ocean, six miles offshore of Alaska’s North Slope.
Mitik was most likely born amidst a passing, thousand-strong herd of barking walruses; social sea mammals, who spend most of their time looking for grub on the ocean’s muddy floor, but often take to icebergs whenever they need a little R&R.
“There was a group of about 1,000 walruses who went by on an ice flow, about 12 days before Mitik was found,” said Alaska SeaLife Center president and CEO Tara Jones. “He was potentially separated from his mother for several weeks, and he was in a pretty challenging medical condition when we found him.”
Mitik was so ill and desperate that he actually approached and swam alongside the fishing boat that eventually saved him — extremely unusual behavior for a healthy walrus, according to the aquarium’s president.
Staff at the Alaskan aquarium put plenty of love, veterinary expertise, and a ton of overtime into rehabilitating the dehydrated and sickly sea mammal, who required 24-hour supervision since the moment he set flipper on aquarium grounds.
“The biggest challenge for us was that walruses need 24/7 care,” Jones said. “Mitik had a good number of medical problems, a lot of complications that took several weeks to work through.”
But if you have to work overtime, there’s no better gig than hanging out with an adorable, cuddle-hungry walrus pup.
“They’re very social, tactile animals, so in addition to having people around, they want to snuggle and be close to people,” said Jones. “It is work, but there are worse things to do than hang out with a walrus.”
Mitik was actually the second orphan found in the wake of the walrus-packed ice flow — Pakak, another boy, was found seven days before Mitik and they recovered together.
At first, Pakak — who is headed to the Indianapolis Zoo — used his larger size to dominate Mitik, but the Brooklyn–bound pup is no longer letting himself get pushed around, handlers say.
“Mitik was originally smaller and weaker, but he recently started standing up to Pakak,” said Jones. “They interact very well; at times they’re sleeping on top of each other, sometimes they’re barking at each other. It’ll be interesting to see how his personality develops.”
When Mitik arrives at the New York Aquarium, he will spend some time in quarantine before meeting his new roommates — Brooklyn legends Kulu and Nuka — and joining the exhibit next year.
His arrival is huge news for aquatic aficionados in the borough, as popular male walruses died tragically in recent years. First went Ayveq who passed after bringing so much pleasure to Coney Island, followed by his son Akituusaq, who did not survive to see his third birthday.
So Matik’s arrival is obviously a big deal — but it raises a big question: how do you ship a walrus from one end of the country to the other?
FedEx, of course.
Mitik and Pakak left the Alaska aquarium on Oct. 10, taking the three-hour drive to Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, where workers put them in crates and sent them their separate ways into the bellies of FedEx jets.
They weren’t alone, however. Mitik met Martha Hiatt, New York Aquarium animal department supervisor after she flew out to Alaska two weeks ago, and they will come to Brooklyn together.s
Reach reporter Colin MIxson at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (718) 260-4514.