Singing Walrus: Does He Take Requests?
E.T., the singing walrus, celebrated his 30th birthday this week at the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium in Tacoma, Washington. To mark the event he showed off his amazing range of vocalizations from growls to an ear-splitting whistle, each at the request of one of the zoo keepers. He clearly enjoyed making the most of his moment in the spotlight.
Back in 1982 he was found by oil workers in Alaska. He was all alone -- orphaned and starving to death. They took him in and found him a home in Port Defiance. He is a long way from being alone and starving now. He is the star attraction at the zoo and weighs in at a hefty 3,400 pounds -- which is just right for a fully mature male walrus.
All those whiskers on his face are specialized vibrissae that walruses use in the wild for forage for their favorite bivalve mollusks -- e.g., clams, oysters, mussels, and scallops. Walruses also enjoy dining on such tasty tidbits as shrimp, crabs, tube worms, soft corals, tunicates, and sea cucumbers.
If E.T. were living in the wild, it is likely that he would be reaching the upper limit of his lifespan. However, he is comfortably ensconced in a lovely habitat complete with catering instead. He shares his digs with Basilla and Joan for female companionship. The zoo is hoping that E.T. will get along well enough with the girls to start a captive breeding program.
Who knows? Perhaps one day Port Defiance will have a whole choir.
Laurie Kay Olson
Animal News Blogger