Akituusaq, son of world-renowned walrus Ayveq, died on Sept. 1 of complications from pneumonia. He was two years old.
Brooklyn’s adored pacific walrus – the first to be born in the New York Aquarium’s 113-year history – passed away after battling the illness for about five days, according to officials from the Coney Island institution.
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of our beloved walrus Akituusaq and are proud of the exemplary care that our entire staff provided during this critical time,” said Aquarium Director Jon Forrest Dohlin, who noted the walrus calf received around-the-clock attention from a team of specialists in the days before his death.
“We know Brooklyn was proud of Akituusaq and many loved him,” said Dohlin. “This is a loss to the whole community.”
Before the sudden onset of illness, Akituusaq was starting to come of age. His tusks had begun to grow in and he had started to distance himself from his mother, Kulu.
But in one way, he had not yet started to take after his famous father, Ayveq, who was loved the world over – by no one more than himself.
“He had not exhibited any masturbatory behaviors,” said Dohlin, referring to Ayveq’s legendary autoerotic tendencies.
Last June, Ayveq, succumbed to a bacterial infection, but young Akituusaq – whose name means “a gift given in return” in the Alaskan and Siberian Yupik language – had always had a clean bill of health.
Investigators are awaiting the results of a necropsy, which might help determine if any “underlying causes” lead to the water-loving mammal’s death, according to Dohlin.
“He was actually an incredibly healthy and vibrant little fellow,” said Dohlin. “He was a great pride and joy because walruses are very rarely successful at breeding in captivity.”
The fact that his birth was celebrated as a blessing makes his death all the more tragic for animal lovers across the borough.
“All of Brooklyn and New York City are saddened to hear of the death of Akituusaq,” said Borough President Markowitz.
“May Akituusaq’s version of heaven provide nothing but calm waters, plentiful food and countless walrus friends,” he added.
There are no plans for a public memorial, but fans of Akituusaq can come down and share their feelings with keepers, or visit with Kulu or the aquarium’s other adult female walrus, Nuka.