Talk about a reversal of fortune: two young walrus calves rescued off Alaska's northern coast have in the space of three months gone from certain Arctic death to East Coast media celebrity.
The barking, flippered kiddies are just the latest 49th state ex-pats, leaving life on the frozen frontier for cushy new homes near the Big Apple and the Brick Yard.
Mitik, 234 pounds, and his buddy Patak, 350 pounds, were rescued in July off the Arctic Alaska coast near Barrow, by North Slope Borough wildlife agents, after federal scientists concluded they'd been abandoned. The orphans were delivered to the Alaska SeaLife Center, a marine research and rehabilitation facility in the Prince William Sound port city of Seward, about 130 miles south of Anchorage.
How do you deliver walrus calves? FedEx, of course. Mitik and Patak were loaded up in giant crates and flown via FedEx cargo jet -- at a cost of $10,000 to $15,000 per walrus -- to their new homes far from frigid Alaska. The zoos that will host the abandoned Alaskans join elite company: only seven facilities in the U.S. showcase walruses, according to according to zoo database Zoo Chat.
The New York Aquarium just off the Coney Island Boardwalk will welcome Mitik, or Mit for short, Thursday, and the Indianapolis Zoo will house Patak.
Martha Hiatt, the New York Aquarium's behavioral husbandry supervisor, traveled to Alaska in September to help care for their new pup.
"If Mit is resting with his head on my lap, sucking my fingers, looking sweetly into my eyes, and Pak comes anywhere near us, he pops up, yells at Pak and tries to head-butt him," she told the New York Times. "Then he'll turn to me and be all cuddly again. We say he is small, but scrappy — the perfect New Yorker."