E.T. the walrus possibly suffering from infection, remains in guarded condition

Staff writerMay 14, 2014 

Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium Tacoma

During his three decades at the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, E.T. the walrus has become a favorite zoo attraction.

JANET JENSEN — Staff photographer file, 2012 Buy Photo

E.T., the beloved walrus at Tacoma’s Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, remained in stable, but guarded condition Wednesday and appears to be suffering from some type of gastrointestinal infection.

The 3,300-pound walrus fell ill Monday and started refusing food. He is now being kept behind the scenes while veterinarians try to pinpoint what’s wrong with him.

Veterinarian Karen Wolf said E.T.’s blood levels indicate an infection. They tried to perform an ultrasound on E.T. Tuesday night but his blubber prevented the vets from getting accurate readings.

He had shown some improvement Wednesday evening, his blood work and behavior showed. The walrus drank water on his own and sucked on some ice in the afternoon, the zoo said.

The zoo’s staff continues to run diagnostic tests on the walrus and is keeping E.T. mildly sedated while they treat him, according to a news release.

E.T., who is 31, came to the Tacoma zoo in August 1982 after a group of oil workers spotted him alone in Prudhoe Bay. After E.T. remained alone for several days, at one point walking three miles across Arctic tundra in search of his family, the oil workers rescued him.

He weighed a mere 155 pounds and was dehydrated when he was saved and was sent to Point Defiance Zoo, which had recently completed the Rocky Shores exhibit.

E.T. was named after the extraterrestrial creature in Steven Spielberg’s movie and is one of three walruses at the zoo. His girlfriends, Basilla and Joan, arrived in Tacoma in 2006. Neither has been successful in breeding with E.T.

Walruses typically live 30-40 years.

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