As part of a new Ocean Wise initiative, visitors to the Vancouver Aquarium now have the perfect opportunity to observe two adorable young walruses in a new Research Outpost exhibit.
Interestingly, this will be the first time in the Aquarium’s 62-year history that guests may get up close and personal with charming Arctic animals.
Born at the Aquarium du Québec in May 2016, Lakina and Balzak are only the 7th and 8th walruses born in captivity in North America since 1930. They made their way to Vancouver in December 2017, and have won the hearts of Aquarium staff.
Guests will have the opportunity to hear a wide variety of vocalizations that walruses make. These include a ‘roar’ and ‘sputter.’ In addition, they will see Lakina and Balzak enjoying play sessions with toys, ice, bubbles, and more.
Vancouver Aquarium: Research Outpost Exhibit
Building on 25 years of research, the zoo aims to learn more about these charismatic creatures. In addition, they want to spread awareness about threats arctic animals face due to rapid climate change.
Here are a few reasons why walruses are some of the most fascinating creatures on planet Earth:
- Female walrus Lakina and male walrus Balzak weigh approximately 300 kgs and 400 kgs, respectively. They are growing at a rapid rate, averaging a 15 kg gain per month. Exhibiting sexual dimorphism, fully grown female walruses weigh 1,250 to 1,700 kgs while males weigh 2,700 to 3,700 kgs. Thick skin and a blubber layer keep these animals warm in icy waters.
- Ivory tusks or modified canine teeth help these strong yet rotund and relatively short-flippered animals haul out on ice floes or rocky shores. For males, tusks also help establish social dominance. Tusks begin growing in the first three to four months of a walrus’ life. From there, they can continue to grow for approximately 15 years. In fact, they reach lengths of 80 cm for females and 100 cm for males.
- Resembling a rather impressive moustache, walruses have dense whiskers called vibrissae. There are 400 to 700 vibrissae organized in 13 to 15 rows across the mystacial pad. And, each is connected to a muscle as well as a nerve and blood supply. Capable of lifting, separating, and scrunching the mystacial pad, a walrus’ sensitive whiskers are a perfect tool for hunting sessile food like clams, mussels, and sea cucumbers in the dark waters near the ocean floor.
- Walruses have incredible vocal capabilities; they are able to make a variety of sounds including a grunt, roar, whistle, and even a ringing bell.
Visitors to the exhibit may also view other pinnipeds including Steller sea lions and Northern fur seals. The Research Outpost is an extension of the west coast fishing village-themed Steller’s Bay which opened on July 1, 2017.
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