Walrus Calf Update #1July 13, 2017
It's been nearly six weeks since we welcomed our first walrus calf born here at SeaWorld Orlando. Just like with other newborns, a lot has happened during these six weeks including some ups and downs.
Watching Kaboodle settle into her role as a first time mom meant a great deal to our team. Her maternal instincts kicked in immediately and she truly seemed to understand her new role. Within hours of the birth our team observed her nursing her new calf. The first couple of weeks continued to be pure bliss as we all swooned over the pair, watching new behaviors and listening to new vocals between Kaboodle and her calf. It’s safe to say her mom voice came to life!
Throughout her pregnancy, our veterinary team monitored Kaboodle around-the-clock, documenting her every move. Since the birth, we have continued this 24-hour watch documenting, watching and learning everything we can about Kaboodle the calf and their bond. Just like any new parent, we have recorded the amount of time the calf nurses, how often the calf went to the bathroom, how long naps last and everything in between. Through this documentation and observation our team noticed that the calf did not seem to be growing as quickly as we expected from all of its nursing. Our team began to weigh the pair on the large scale in their habitat. The team’s visual observations were correct; the calf was not gaining weight.
From there our team organized and coordinated a detailed plan. Our husbandry team and veterinarians met to discuss the best course of action for Kaboodle and her calf. Through those discussions and additional observation it was determined our team needed to intervene. Initially the goal was to supplement Kaboodle’s milk with bottle feeds, but the calf did not take to the bottle so it was determined that the team needed to start hand raising the calf. The goal is to get her back on track with steady weight gain.
For the last two weeks our team has been hands on with the calf 24-hours a day. Initially, we had to tube feed the calf to ensure proper nutrients were being digested, but within less than 36 hours of those first feeds, the calf easily transitioned to a bottle. Today, she continues to be bottle fed every three hours. The formula our team feeds the calf was developed by SeaWorld veterinarians and nutritionists and designed to mimic walrus milk. In fact, it is same formula Kaboodle was fed when she was hand raised by SeaWorld San Diego.
We have also continued to closely monitor Kaboodle, ensuring she is healthy and has fully recovered from giving birth. She has been transitioning back to her regular routine and currently spends evenings with Garfield. This week she is returning to the guest-facing habitat at Wild Arctic, so our guests can once again see her.Kaboodle’s calf continues to thrive and grow. She is gaining weight and has a healthy appetite. She is active and loves to play in the water. She will continue to remain off habitat in the coming weeks as our veterinary team continues to monitor her progress. From there, our plan is to reunite Kaboodle and her calf.