The threatened walrus (Odobenus rosmarus) is a large marine mammal that spends time both on land and in the sea. Males and females have ivory tusks, which are actually enlarged upper canine teeth. The males’ tusks are much larger and enable them to fight other males for territorial and mating purposes. Walrus have “vibrissae,” which are extremely sensitive facial whiskers that are used to detect prey such as clams, snails, and mussels buried in the sea floor.

The greatest threats affecting walrus populations are human-related and include hunting and climate disruption. Walrus are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act which prohibits the killing or harassment of marine mammals in, and the import of, marine mammals and marine mammal products. Unfortunately, the illegal hunting of walrus for their ivory tusks continues to decrease the population by an estimated 4% to 8% each year. Climate disruption is increasingly affecting walrus population health. Similar to polar bears, walrus depend on the ice floats for rest and to bear young. If current trends continue, many environmental experts predict that walrus populations will sharply decline within the foreseeable future.

The Marine Mammal Taxon Advisory Group and the Walrus Animal Program manage more than 25 walruses in 8 AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums. Biologists at AZA-accredited facilities are investigating walrus reproduction by monitoring the female’s estrous cycle and measuring hormone levels. These data will be used to help develop assisted reproductive technologies such as artificial insemination for the ex situ walrus population

Walrus Facts

Status Threatened
Size Males weigh between 1,764-3,748 pounds and are 9-12 feet long. Females weigh between 882-2,756 pounds and are 7.5-10 feet long.
Appearance Walrus have think, wrinkled, brownish skin, and flat front and hind flippers. They may look bald, but their body is covered with short brown hair. They have long, sharp tusks, whiskers, small eyes and no external ears.
Habitat Walrus are found in the Arctic circle on sea ice or small rocky islands.  They spend 2/3 of their lives in the water.
Diet The walrus feeds on clams, mussels, krill, crabs, worms and snails. It will also eat octopus and fish.
Breeding Every two or three years the cow (female) gives birth to a single calf in May or June.