By Erika Allen
Senior Marine Mammal Trainer
As a Senior Marine Mammal Trainer at the Indianapolis Zoo, caring for our marine mammals and working toward conservation of their wild habitats are some of the most rewarding parts of my job.
Mentored by my fellow Senior Trainer, Lisa Oland, I’ve developed a passion for working with and protecting walrus. My experiences working around these highly intelligent and charismatic animals have inspired me to put my heart into their wellbeing and protection. Together, Lisa and I have worked with the Zoo’s Marine Mammal Training team to enhance the lives of our walrus through creative enrichment and innovative research training. Our passion and dedication to these animals has created a desire to work with facilities and organizations from around the world to collaborate with a mission of learning about, and protecting walrus.
Back in early May, 2017, Lisa and I were able to do just that in Anchorage, Alaska. This opportunity came through the Zoo’s involvement with the Walrus Conservation Consortium, a group of top walrus professionals from around the world who meet annually to discuss walrus care, management, research, and conservation.
In addition to learning about new ways to advance walrus care, we shared our experiences with our two Pacific walrus, Aurora and Pakak. The information the Zoo’s staff has gained from years of working with walrus has enabled us to contribute important welfare and research data to the global walrus and scientific communities.
During the workshop, we also had the opportunity to meet with representatives from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game as well as the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. This collaboration on research projects and conservation funding will hopefully lead to a better understanding of Pacific walrus and their habitats, as well as increased conservation efforts.
You can support one such fundraising effort at the Zoo by participating in our “round up” program in the gift shop. Guests will be given the opportunity to round their total purchase cost up to the nearest dollar, with the difference being donated to the Alaska SeaLife Center to be used on walrus-specific research and rehabilitation.
Next time you visit the zoo, don’t forget to stop by and say hello to Pakak and Aurora and learn about your impact on the arctic environment and how you can join the zoo in helping to protect this amazing species!
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