Aquarium du Québec has just been part of a nearly unheard of event: the birth of a walrus in captivity.
Arnaliaq gave birth to her pup on Saturday, May 7, making it the first walrus ever born in captivity in Canada and just the seventh pup in North America since records began. In a Facebook post, the aquarium said: “The delivery went naturally without any human intervention,” although veterinarians monitored the behavior by using video cameras. You can see some of the footage from the cameras below.
So far, they’re not sure what gender the baby walrus is as they haven’t yet approached the mother and child pair. Since Arnaliaq appears to be successfully nursing her new pup, the aquarium will be leaving them alone to settle and bond.
Remarkably, a second walrus at the aquarium, called Samka, is also pregnant and expected to give birth around June. A walrus called Boris is the father to both.
This love-triangle is of great interest to scientists since there are only around 30 walruses in captivity across the world. Among these, a successful pregnancy is extremely rare, yet no one is quite sure why. Furthermore, walruses are such a tricky species to hold in captivity in general, due to their susceptibility to disease.
But while walrus populations are not currently too much of a concern to conservationists, climate change is expected to hit the species pretty hard, specifically for the Pacific subspecies. The IUNC Red List say there is an insufficient amount of data on walruses to determine their conservation status. However, they say there is evidence to suggest that certain subspecies are declining. So, knowledge about breeding these creatures is going to be a valuable resource over the coming decades. This extremely rare occurrence in Québec could provide the perfect opportunity to get it.