The walrus whose self-gratification rituals made him the New York Aquarium’s most famous resident passed away earlier this week. As reported by The Brooklyn Paper:
Though well-liked long before he discovered the habit that would make him a star, Ayveq’s frequent public self-gratification made him the Coney Island institution’s singular attraction.
“We are all still in shock about it,” Aquarium Director Jon Forrest Dohlin said. “He was an absolute delight. He had a magnetism and a charm that was totally his own. He loved people and he knew how to work a crowd and entertain guests.”
“And himself,” Dohlin added. “He did have a raffish charm, no doubt about it.”
Aquarium workers realized Ayveq was suffering last Sunday. An autopsy is still pending, but Ayveq’s keepers suspect he died of a massive bacterial infection. According to the aquarium’s Web site:
Over the past week, Ayveq had been under special care by Wildlife Conservation Society veterinarians and received round-the-clock attention from Aquarium staff. “Ayveq was treated actively and aggressively in our attempt to save him,” said Dr. Paul Calle, director of zoological health programs for WCS. “He was a remarkable animal.”
Sadly, Ayveq’s death comes almost a year after the birth of his only known offspring, Akituusaq.
Ayveq first arrived at the New York Aquarium in 1994 along with two other orphaned walruses: Uupa and Kulusiq. Their condition was critical. According to Dr. Hans Walters, Animal Department Supervisor at the Aquarium at the time, “If the mother dies, the orphan can’t be fed, and the baby dies.”
You can read about the 24-hour care — including two years of bottle feeding — the aquarium provided Ayveq and Kulusiq in NATURE’s “Toothwalkers: Giants of the Arctic Ice.”