Orphaned walrus recovering

    ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Everybody needs a shoulder to lean on now and then. A walrus calf at the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward, Alaska, is getting one 24 hours per day.

    Trained staff members, working in pairs, are touching, massaging and cuddling a calf all day and all night as part of its recuperation. The calf, estimated to be about 6 weeks old, was found last month without its mother several miles outside Nome.

    Walrus are highly social and spend two years with their mothers, said Jennifer Gibbins, marketing and communications director for the center.

    "They need constant contact," Gibbins said. "Part of the caregiving is providing that constant contact and tactile interaction.

    The calf was spotted in mid-June on the deck of a mining barge. The walrus was still on the barge the next morning and the barge crew summoned wildlife experts.

    The SeaLife Center is dedicated to marine research and education and features a public aquarium. It's the only facility in Alaska that holds a permit for marine mammal rescue and rehabilitation.

    When the calf reached Seward on June 17, it weighed 120 pounds (54 kilograms) and was extremely lethargic.

    "He was severely dehydrated," Gibbins said. "That was really the first concern."

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