Last week Marineland lost Sonja, who was the first walrus to relocate to Marineland. We’ve received many emails and Facebook messages from members of the public expressing their condolences for Sonja’s loss and asking questions about walruses at Marineland.
Our marine mammal care team appreciates the expressions of condolences and support from the public during this difficult time for them.
We would like to assure members of the public that Zeus, Apollo, Buttercup and Smooshi continue to thrive, due to the high quality care and enrichment they receive from dedicated members of the marine mammal care team and the veterinary staff that maintain their health.
While we await the results of Sonja’s necropsy, we are paying additional attention to the remaining walruses and continue to be prepared to take early intervention steps, should any of their health situations change.
Marineland has been home to walruses since 2001.
The economic fallout that followed the breakup of the Soviet Union made Russia a very challenging place to find the resources necessary to properly care for the many orphaned walruses rescued. It is believed Marineland’s walruses lost their mothers to poaching prior to being rescued. Many were in poor health when saved from the wild, and sadly continued to be as resource challenged organizations in Russia fought to save their lives.
Each of the walruses to come to Marineland was less than a year old when they arrived. Without human intervention, followed by Marineland’s care and compassion, each of these walruses is likely to have starved in the wild or been poached, just as their mothers likely were. Even with human intervention, the survival rate for orphaned walruses that are rescued is very low, due to the long term health implications this traumatic experience causes, for a range of reasons.
In addition to accepting beluga whales from a former Soviet defense program, Marineland felt a strong desire to help these orphaned walruses experience a better quality of life and has always been prepared to fight hard to save the lives of orphaned animals.
Sonja came to Canada from the renowned Moscow Zoo, a national institution in Russia with a strong international reputation, in 2001.
Sonja was joined by Zeus and Apollo two months after arriving at Marineland. Each came to the park in good health and provided Marineland’s marine mammal care team and veterinary staff with the opportunity to apply practical learning and develop best practices for the care of walruses at Marineland.
In 2002, Pandora, Buttercup and Buddy were brought to Marineland, and unlike Sonja, Zeus and Apollo, they were not in good health when rescued. Buddy was in such poor shape, Buddy’s previous owner surrendered Buddy to Marineland in the hopes that we could rehabilitate the walrus. Out of options in Russia, Marineland was seen as Buddy’s last and best chance for survival. We did everything we could.
Sadly, Buddy was too sick to be saved and after months of extensive efforts by Marineland’s marine mammal care team and our veterinary staff, we were unable to restore Buddy’s health. Pandora survived for nearly six years before passing away.
Marineland’s mammal care team was deeply impacted by Buddy’s passing. Buddy was the first walrus to pass away at Marineland. Mindful of the overwhelming numbers of orphaned walruses in Russia, Marineland brought over Smooshi and Azul in 2004, in an effort to provide a better future for each.
Our team was determined to take the lessons learned from caring for Buddy, during Buddy’s short and difficult life, and aware how much improved Buddy’s quality of life was here, where appropriate food, clean water, daily care and veterinary support was available.
Azul faced similar health challenges that predated being rescued and cared for in Russia, and sadly died within a year of coming to Marineland, after extensive marine mammal care team intervention and veterinary support.
While Azul, Buddy and Pandora experienced difficult health situations directly as a result of poaching rendering them orphans, Marineland’s staff gave each of these walruses the high degree of care, compassion, love and support that the public have come to expect from Marineland.
The lessons our team learned during these extraordinary times have directly contributed to Sonja, Zeus, Apollo, Buttercup and Smooshi thriving in the enriching environment Marineland provides for them. Sonja was the first walrus to pass away at the park in nearly ten years.