Okay, maybe not. But watch the video of Mit, the orphaned baby walrus now in residence at the New York Aquarium, and see if you’re not tempted to adopt him yourself.
A team of 15 is caring for him around the clock. His favorite toy is a plastic bucket. He has taken swimmingly to a large pool. And on Friday, he had his first taste of solid food — surf clams.
He was describing Mitik, or Mit for short, one of two walrus calves separated from a herd in the Artic Ocean and orphaned in Alaska in July. The Alaska SeaLife Center took them in and found new homes for each. (The other walrus, Pakak, went to the Indianapolis Zoo.) The New York Aquarium, eager for a young companion for its two older walruses, stepped up, flying a staff member, Martha Hiatt, to Alaska to work with Mit for a month.
With his curious, playful personality and expressive eyes, it is tempting, aquarium officials say, to think of Mit as a big, slippery toddler. (The giant bottle of formula does not help.) He still needs — and receives — a lot of human contact. “He likes us to be physical, grab his flippers and roll him over,” Ms. Hiatt said. “And he still really loves to snuggle in close.”
But the veterinarian technicians and keepers caring for Mit are trying to dial that physicality back a bit, both for their safety and his own good. For one thing, he now weighs 242 pounds, a size that could start to pose risks for staff members. More important, Mit must begin to identify with his own species, in preparation for his eventual debut in the walrus exhibit.
“We want to make sure that we don’t give him so much contact that the day he actually meets his buddies he’s more interested in us than the other walruses,” Ms. Hiatt said. “He needs to know he’s a walrus.”
The NYT has a Kids Draw the News program in which parents are invited “to submit drawings their kids have created depicting events in the local news.” Kids were asked to read the initial walrus story and “illustrate any part of the story you wish.” A slide show of eleven drawings can be seen here. Below is six-year-old Roberto’s depiction of his family visiting Mit.