The creak and rumble of the Cyclone in its early test runs mark the arrival of spring in Coney Island along with flocks of visitor returning to see whats new at the New York Aquarium. This year the most significant spring event was the first birthday of our baby Pacific walrus, Akituusaq. (Pronounced: ah, kee, tu, SOC)
His actual birthday is June 12, but he can be seen romping with his mother, Kulusiq, everyday in one of the walrus pools. The father, Avyeq, was in the pool next door with Auntie Nuka. Actually, there is no relationship with Nuka. Nuka has been a long time resident at the Aquarium (since 1982). Our other walrus came here in 1994 to open the Sea Cliffs exhibit. None of our adult animals are related to each other, and thats a good thing.
In zoos and aquariums, because the population of each is small, great care against inbreeding must be taken to ensure a healthy gene pool. For this reason, when Akituusaq grows up, it is likely we will look to other institutions to find a suitable mate. Exchange between aquariums is quite common, and although moving big animals across the country is difficult and costly, it is necessary to preserve a healthy population in the worlds zoos and aquariums. The New York Aquarium is especially proud to be part of the still small community that has had success in breeding walrus. We look forward to an expansion of our collection in the future.
Beyond the enchantment of walrus family interaction, there is much to see. From the sea lion show to the smallest jellyfish exhibit, spring cleaning is putting a new shine on throughout the Park. Conservation Hall is under construction with the promise of dramatic new exhibits to come. A small, new exhibit has been installed to celebrate The Year of the Frog.
The international conservation community has designated 2008 as the year to bring attention to the worldwide threat to amphibians. Loss of habitat, development, and the usual concerns are a danger to frogs, but in particular the fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, is spreading from country to country. The speed of the contagion of this killer is remarkable and illustrates that globalization impacts animal life as well as the economy. This program was launched on Leap years day and will continue throughout the year, bringing this important message to our visitors. Four small exhibits present some of the diverse and interesting forms of frogs and hopefully will generate public awareness and appreciation for the little frogs and amphibians that would otherwise go unnoticed.
We look forward to bringing The Daily Green regular updates from the Aquarium and giving its readers a closer look at some unique wildlife in Coney Island.
Paul L. Sieswerda
curator, New York Aquarium
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