Coney Island loses star walrus

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Ayveq, the Pacific walrus who rose from orphaned Alaskan calf to beefy harem leader at the New York Aquarium, died on June 22. He was 14 years old.

The cause of death won’t be known until a necropsy is performed, aquarium officials said.

Over the past week, Ayveq (pronounced EYE’-vek) had been under the special care of Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) veterinarians and received round-the-clock attention.

“Ayveq was treated actively and aggressively in our attempt to save him,” said Dr. Paul Calle, the director of zoological health programs for the WCS.

“He was a remarkable animal,” said Calle.

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of our beloved walrus Ayveq and are proud of the exemplary care that our entire staff provided during this critical time,” said Jon Forrest Dohlin, the aquarium’s director.

Ayveq was the dominant male of the aquarium’s Pacific walrus group.

His story began far from Brooklyn, on St. Lawrence Island, Alaska, where he was rescued as a baby in 1994.

A team of aquarium staff traveled to Alaska to rescue orphaned walrus calves off the island waters.

Their mothers were “casualties of a subsistence hunt, and the youngsters could not survive on their own,” according to the aquarium.

The team returned to the aquarium with three pups, naming one of the females Kulusiq (Coo lu soock’), ‘iceberg’ in the native Alaskan Yupiq language. The male they called Ayveq, which means ‘walrus.’

The two forged a lasting bond that last year produced ‘little’ 115-pound Akituusaq (ah-kee-TOO-sack), who celebrated his one-year birthday on June 11. The walrus birth was the first in the aquarium’s 112-year history.

At that time of his rescue, Ayveq weighed only 150 pounds and could be contained in a dog kennel, according to the aquarium.

His charm was irrepressible, as was his appetite. Over the years, he would reach close to 3,000 pounds.

His mammoth spirit touched scores of visitors, officials said.

When he wasn’t being a walrus, he was known to whistle, wave and salute passersby.

—Gary Buiso

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