Two orphaned walruses will be reunited this week at their new home, Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium.
Mitik, who weighs 1,700 pounds, and Pakak, weighing 1,560 pounds, will live at the Rocky Shores habitat recently vacated by the Tacoma zoo’s two female walruses, which were sent to San Diego with hopes for breeding.
Mitik and Pakak garnered nationwide attention after they were rescued in July 2012 off the coast near Barrow, Alaska.
Only 1 month old, dehydrated and in failing health, Mitik tried to climb into a boat and Pakak got caught in fishing nets.
They were rehabilitated at SeaLife Center before being shipped to new homes.
Pakak went to the Indianapolis Zoo, and Mitik first went to the New York Aquarium but was later sent to SeaWorld San Diego.
Now, they’re reunited and planning to stay in Tacoma.
“They vocalize back and forth to each other and follow each other around the pool,” said senior staff biologist Amanda Shaffer. “They’re obviously really comfortable with each other and their new home. It will be interesting to watch these young walruses grow up.”
The walrus boys arrived Thursday and can be seen on exhibit, though they’ll also spend some time behind-the-scenes.
Mitik has shorter, fatter tusks and won’t be caught whistling this time of year. Patak has longer, thinner tusks and more protruding eyes and happily whistles year-round.
There are only 14 walruses in human care in the United States, according to the zoo.
Pacific walruses are a threatened species found in the Bering and Chukchi seas. Climate change has become their biggest threat, melting the Arctic ice walruses typically sleep and breed on and forcing them to rely on eating fewer clams in shallower waters.