Vancouver Aquarium, an Ocean Wise initiative, is pleased to announce the arrival of two young walruses — Lakina and Balzak — from Aquarium du Québec. During the coming months, the young walruses and Vancouver Aquarium’s marine mammal team will get to know each other and develop the strong, trusting relationship crucial to animal care.
Vancouver Aquarium looks forward to introducing Lakina and Balzak to guests in 2018. At a time when walruses and all Arctic mammals are facing increasing threats due to rapid climate change, these charismatic young walruses will connect visitors to their species, the conservation issues faced in the north, and how we may help protect them in nature.
Lakina (female) and Balzak (male) were born in May 2016 in professional care at Aquarium du Québec. These animals are half-siblings; they share the same father (Boris) but different mothers (Arnaliaq and Samka, respectively).
Vancouver Aquarium and Aquarium du Québec animal care teams have worked in close collaboration leading up to the arrival of the young walruses and preparing for their specialized care needs. This collaboration continues as the Aquarium du Québec’s team members who accompanied Lakina and Balzak remain onsite, working alongside Vancouver Aquarium’s animal care team and ensuring the walruses have a smooth transition to their new home.
“We are delighted to be working with Aquarium du Québec, our professionally accredited peers, and are excited that Lakina and Balzak have joined the Vancouver Aquarium family,” said Dolf DeJong, vice president and general manager of Vancouver Aquarium, an Ocean Wise initiative. “Most importantly, we look forward to providing our visitors with the opportunity to connect with and learn from these charismatic animals.”
Odobenus rosmarus — the scientific name for walrus, which translates to ‘tooth-walking seahorse’ — is an iconic Arctic mammal yet very little is known about this species due to limited research. While there may be up to several thousand walruses in Canadian waters, both Atlantic and Pacific walrus populations are data deficient. The impacts of climate change are widespread but there is not yet enough information to classify the walrus populations as threatened. The Northwest Atlantic walrus population — that once used the Gulf of St. Lawrence as a pupping area – is extirpated and now protected under the federal Fisheries Act which prohibits commercial hunting and the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA).
Walruses, along with sea lions and fur seals, are pinnipeds or fin-footed, semiaquatic marine mammals. For almost 25 years, Vancouver Aquarium has been working with the University of British Columbia to learn more about pinnipeds and their metabolic requirements, starting with Steller sea lions in 1993 and extending to Northern fur seals in 2009. This work contributes to the global knowledge base as scientists work to provide research-based solutions to protect wild populations. This experience working with animals to facilitate vital research means Vancouver Aquarium is well-equipped to continue and build upon the morphometric and energetic studies initiated by Aquarium du Québec, mapping the growth cycles of these young animals and gaining insight into this species that can potentially aid in developing sustainable conservation strategies.
While Lakina and Balzak remain behind-the-scenes, we encourage visitors to follow along as the young walruses grow, develop, and explore their new home on Vancouver Aquarium’s Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram profiles.