ORLANDO, Fla. (FOX 35 ORLANDO) - SeaWorld Orlando is getting the rare chance to raise a walrus calf.
Three-week old Kora was born on July third to 16-year-old mom Kaboodle and dad Garfield. Kora is only the second walrus calf to be born at SeaWorld Orlando in the last two years.
Jon Peterson, SeaWorld Orlando's senior leader of zoological operations, said Kora's birth is an incredible opportunity to watch a walrus calf grow.
"There's only 14 walruses in the U.S. in zoological settings and there's only been four babies ever born… two of them at SeaWorld Orlando."
Sea World's Zoological staff is providing 24/7 care to the new calf, teaching her to swim and dive in order to build muscle strength. Keepers are also feeding Kora nearly two gallons of milk every day because her mom was not producing enough milk.
"We didn't see the nursing that we were hoping to see within those first couple of days of life with Kora," said Dr. Stacy DiRocco, senior veterinarian at SeaWorld Orlando. "That's a really critical milestone once an animal has been born."
Staff still make sure mom and calf spend plenty of time together. Peterson said they are taking a unique, co-parenting approach with Kora.
"Mom and baby are actually seeing each other every day. Our goal is, in the next month or so to be able to put mom and baby back together. We can come in and give bottles, but mom can raise baby," he said.
Dr. DiRocco said Kora has already gained 31 pounds since she was born and gains an average of 11 pounds a week. She could eventually weigh up to around 2,000 pounds.
"Their growth rate is pretty fast because they have to get big enough to survive in a pretty cold environment," Dr. DiRocco said.
Dr. DiRocco said she is hoping her staff can learn a lot from this rare opportunity to watch a walrus calf grow because typically they live in remote areas.
"Hopefully, when biologists are trying to learn more about walruses in the wild, if there's some gaps in that information we can work with them to fill in those gaps," she said.
SeaWorld Orlando visitors can see Kora in the Wild Artic Exhibit every day from 12 p.m. until 3 p.m.