BROOKLYN — He's only been in New York a few hours, and already, a little orphaned Alaskan is stealing the show.
Mitik, a wide-eyed baby walrus with a heartbreaking tale of woe, arrived at the New York Aquarium in Coney Island to great fanfare Wednesday, accompanied by an entourage from Seward, Alaska, where he spent the past several months in the Alaska SeaLife Center wildlife rehabilitation facility recovering from an unspecified illness.
The ailing star was first discovered in July by fisherman off the coast of Barrow, Alaska, where he and an unrelated walrus, Pakak, had apparently been orphaned. Both were taken to the SeaLife Center for treatment, which the aquarium will continue to provide Mitik in Coney Island as he awaits his New York debut.
"Mitik has been showing signs of improvement thanks to the dedication and expertise of the Alaska SeaLife Center team, New York Aquarium staff on-site, and the Indianapolis Zoo staff all working together," New York Aquarium Director Jon Forrest Dohin said in a statement. “He is not out of the woods yet, but we are hopeful he will make a full recovery."
For now, though, the adoring public will have to wait. Officials said the aquarium's freshest face will stay out of the spotlight for months to come as he continues to receive round-the-clock monitoring and a strict diet of nutrient-dense walrus formula.
The New York Aquarium is taking no chances with the delicate orphan, after suffering a string of tusky tragedies in recent years with the loss of beloved 14-year-old walrus Ayveq in 2008, followed quickly by Ayveq's only son Akituusaq in 2009.
Aquarium officials said they hope to introduce Mitik to the crowds and his surviving walrus co-stars, Nuka, 30, and Kulu, 17 some time next year.