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San Diego

A 28-year-old Sea World employee was in good condition Tuesday after a 2,500-pound walrus playfully knocked her into the water and bear-hugged her with its flippers, Sea World officials said.

Lisa Gouse, employed at Sea World for 3 1/2 years, was taking a routine water sample at the edge of the walrus feeding pool Tuesday afternoon when Illiyac swam by and bumped her into the water with his flipper, Sea World spokesman Dan LeBlanc said.

The walrus then grabbed Gouse with its flippers and swam with her up and down in the water for two to three minutes. Park operation staffers were finally able to use a hook to fish Gouse from the clutches of the walrus.

She was taken to Mercy Hospital, where she was to be kept overnight for observation.

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“This has never happened before,” LeBlanc said. “The walrus is a very curious and gregarious animal who essentially just wanted to play with her, and she let him get too close. I’m sure he didn’t mean to hurt her. A big animal like that, it doesn’t take much of a bump.”

Although the incident was a first at Sea World, officials will seek to “minimize the risk” of future occurrences by requiring that all animal care staff members be accompanied by another person when in animal exhibits.


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