Alaska walrus recuperating at SeaWorld

Posted: Monday, September 27, 2004

 

  SeaWorld San Diego animal keeper Greg Stricher hoses down Tessa, a female walrus calf, during a play session Tuesday in San Diego. AP Photo/SeaWorld San Diego, Bob

SeaWorld San Diego animal keeper Greg Stricher hoses down Tessa, a female walrus calf, during a play session Tuesday in San Diego.

AP Photo/SeaWorld San Diego, Bob

A walrus found beached and tangled in fishing nets near Barrow this summer is adjusting well to her new home at San Diego's SeaWorld, handlers say.

Tessa, now 3 months old, is making her home in the animal park's Wild Arctic exhibit after a harrowing journey from Alaska.

In July, the young animal was spotted on a beach near Barrow by fishers. The pup was alone and wandering the beach, where she got wrapped up in fishing nets. She was rescued by an animal control officer and moved to the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward, where she was cared for before being moved to SeaWorld for rehabilitation.

When she was found, Tessa weighed about 137 pounds. Now, she's up to a healthier 227 pounds, according to her SeaWorld keepers.

She is being bottle fed a simulated walrus milk formula until she's ready for whole fish and clams. She also is receiving the tactile stimulation social creatures like walruses need, her handlers said.

"She's doing everything a healthy walrus should," said Greg Steicher, senior keeper at Wild Arctic.

For now, Tessa's only interaction is with keepers but eventually she will be introduced to the four other Pacific walruses in the Wild Arctic segment of the park. In a few months, she may be put on display to help visitors learn about marine mammals.

Raised almost completely in captivity, Tessa named for 2004 Junior Yukon Quest champion Tessa King likely will not return to the wild.

However, experts say a life in captivity is better than the beach where she was living and likely would have died of dehydration and starvation.



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