Sleepy Hollow Journalism Students Report, Buddies with Brooklyn’s Biggest Baby

Please enjoy this piece from SHHS Journalism Student Megan Maher.

Where is the best place to go in the winter (or any season)? The New York Aquarium!

It is my favorite spot because Brooklyn’s biggest baby lives there, and he is my buddy.

In 2006, the Aquarium was surprised to learn that their female walrus, Kulu, was pregnant. Walrus births in captivity are very rare–only 10 have been born with just five surviving their first year. One of them is Akituusaq, a bouncing baby boy that weighed 150 lbs. when he was born on June 12, 2007.

Now, a chubby 18-month-old toddler at 450 lbs., "Tuusaq" is learning more about life every minute. He has gone from a sleepy baby to an independent game of catch with a walrus-sized ball with his favorite keeper, Paul Moylett. Each enrichment activity the keepers at the Aquarium provide to Tuusaq helps him grow and enhances his natural behaviors. An activity can be as simple as hiding fish in a favorite toy for Tuusaq to find or introducing him to new things.

My Mom is staff photographer for the Wildlife Conservation Society, and she works with the keepers to photodocument their enrichment efforts with wildlife for press and scientific purposes. I am lucky to get to go with her on assignments, like taking photos of the many baby "firsts" of the young walrus at the Aquarium. 

I have known Tuusaq since he was two days old when he spent all of his time with his mom, Kulu, and have had many visits since then. On December 24, 2008, I got the privilege of being Tuusaq’s enrichment with his first meet-and-greet of someone besides his keeper. It turns out he likes shoes as much as me! The first thing Tuusaq did was come up on the rock, and sniff my sneakers. Moylett told me that I could feed the little guy, so I gave him a few of the commands that he had learned from his keepers and gave him a fish as a reward. Tuusaq didn’t eat the way adult walruses do. Instead of sucking the fish down like a vacuum cleaner, Tuusaq nibbled it gently. Feeding the chubby baby was like sticking coins in a big piggy bank! By the time he’s a teenager, he’ll be downing those fish like there’s no tomorrow. 

If you want to see Brooklyn’s biggest baby, just make a trip to Coney Island, where he swims at the Aquarium 365 days of the year.

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About the Author: Megan Maher