VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – A new exhibit at the Vancouver Aquarium aims to give visitors a different look at the facility’s research.
“We just opened up what we call ‘Research Outpost’ and it is kind of a glimpse into some of the things that people haven’t been able to see before,” explains Troy Neale, assistant curator of marine mammals. “Some of the research that goes on at the aquarium which we’ve had animals and have been doing studies in there for many years.”
Visitors will have a chance of witnessing behind the scenes research work at different times throughout the day involving sea lions, northern fur seals, and two young walruses — a first for the aquarium.
“[Lakina and Balzak] are very special,” he explains. The pair were born at the Quebec Aquarium in 2016, and were transferred to Vancouver in December of last year. Neale says they are the first walruses to be born in a Canadian facility.
“So we’ve been looking after them and working with them ever since. They’re just two really charismatic, really curious animals, and really engaging for people.”
As part of the Research Outpost exhibit, visitors will see Lakina and Balzak interact with trainers and researchers. According to the Vancouver Aquarium, walruses — like many other arctic mammals — are facing threats brought on by climate change.
Neale says having these two young animals at the facility gives researchers opportunities they might not otherwise have.
“No body’s really had that opportunity to do studies looking at metabolics and energetics and food and doing blood sampling to look at the internal of the animals,” he explains. “Young animals like this, two years old, this is the time of life when a walrus is doing a huge amount of growing. So to be able to study an animal in that kind of situation… it makes a real difference.”
The Research Outpost is now open and Neale encourages people to visit to see what kind of work is done at the facility.
Lakina and Balzak are half siblings, meaning they share a common father but have different mothers.
“Balzak, the male, he’s a full pacific walrus — his mother and father are both pacific walruses,” Neale says. “Lakina is a half pacific, half Atlantic walrus, her mother is an Atlantic walrus.”
Balzak currently weighs about 400 kilograms, and Lakina weighs in at around 300 kilograms. Neale estimates they could quadruple in size, but adds Lakina will likely be a bit smaller.