The Vancouver Aquarium gave itself a wonderful Christmas present this year. Young walruses, Lakina and Balzac, arrived just in time this December.
The aquarium and the newspapers are ecstatic about it, but we should think twice about this surprise arrival. Whether the walruses like it or not, they will be VanAq stand-ins for a long line of orcas, porpoises, and beluga stars. They will have major roles as the next generation of trophies.
Walrus calves are rare. They are extremely uncommon in aquariums. Lakina and Balzak are the 7th and 8th calves born in North American aquariums in the last 90 years! (1). Only 19 other captive cows have gestated in all that time, and none of the calves survived more than a year. Lakina and Balzac are a year and a half old now, so are very special indeed.
Any problem with these new walruses, of course, would be tragic for VanAq. The preceding year was disastrous there. Four cetaceans died: porpoise, Daisy; two belugas, Aurora and Quila; and the ‘false killer whale’, Chester. Finally, that year, after years of public conflict, the Vancouver Parks Board prohibited cetaceans at the aquarium.
The only good news for the VanAq that year was the arrival of the two walruses.