After a normal birth and a promising start, a week-old baby walrus born at Marineland died Tuesday of complications resulting from a congenitally imperfect bile duct, a Marineland official said.
"We didn't know it, but we were fighting an uphill battle from the start," said Marineland curator Brad Andrews.
The female walrus, the third offspring of two-ton Priscilla and 4,500-pound Woolfy, died at 4:30 a.m. An autopsy conducted by Andrews showed that death was caused by liver dysfunction resulting from a bile duct that did not open into the stomach.
Marineland spokeswoman Laurie Armstrong said tissue samples from the unnamed walrus will be tested for parasites, toxic substances and infection. Its skeleton and other tissues will be kept for research, she said.
After a healthy delivery, the first sign anything was wrong came when the walrus refused to nurse despite encouragement from its mother. After 55 hours without nursing, the baby was taken from the mother.
Priscilla showed signs of missing her baby for 15 to 20 minutes, crawling out to look for it, Andrews said. He speculated that Priscilla may not have been more upset because she may have sensed her baby had a problem.
Andrews said that Marineland is the only aquarium that has had successful births of walruses, and that the survival rate is 50%, probably the same that walruses have in the wild.