Zoo's beloved walrus in 'guarded' condition

Tacoma News TribuneMay 13, 2014 

E.T., a 3,300-pound walrus, first came to the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium in 1982 as an orphan.


E.T., a walrus and 31-year resident of the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, fell ill suddenly Monday and is in "guarded" condition, zoo officials said Tuesday evening.

Three staff veterinarians were working with the 3,300-pound walrus Tuesday to keep him hydrated and medicated. They were investigating abnormal blood levels.

An ultrasonographer also planned to evaluate E.T.'s kidneys and abdomen, and an endoscopy Wednesday will check for signs of an ingested foreign object or possible infection.

The illness has left E.T. extremely lethargic and refusing to eat, according to a news release.

“We’re very concerned,” zoo general curator Karen Goodrowe Beck said.

E.T., who has remained behind the scenes since he fell ill, is one of three walruses at the zoo. The others – Basilla and Joan – are two females brought to the zoo in 2006 in the hopes of breeding with E.T.

He arrived in Tacoma in August 1982 from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, where a group of oil workers had spotted him wandering alone. They watched him walk three miles across Arctic tundra in search of his family, according to The News Tribune archives.

When E.T. remained on his own for days, they rescued him and named him after the extraterrestrial creature in Steven Spielberg's movie. The walrus was dehydrated and weighed only 155 pounds when he was taken in by the Alaska Zoo and U.S. Fish & Wildlife officials.

Since Point Defiance had nearly completed its Rocky Shores exhibit, the zoo offered to care for E.T.

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