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Walrus: Two Tonne Tusker - Natural World
E8 of 10
Sunday 10pm - 11pm
Mon 27 Nov,
2:20am - 3:20am
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When you first meet Sivuqaq, the vast, blubbery walrus at the heart of this film, his stentorian burping and groaning and raspberry-blowing may be a little off-putting. But stick around – he grows on you.
He’s an 18-year-old male in a Californian zoo where his keeper Holley would like nothing better than to see him become a father. The trouble is, the secrets of walrus love are, we’re told, a mystery. Holley hopes to learn more about them by visiting a wild walrus colony in Alaska, but breeding patterns are disrupted by a lack of sea ice.
Pandas have been bred more successfully in captivity than walruses, so Holley has her work cut out. But as we follow the progress of Sivuqaq and his female companions, they become more and more captivating: one shot of a female tenderly hugging her stillborn calf is extraordinary. Walrus song is amazing, too (in one variant, they do pretty much go “goo goo g’joob” – no, really) and the mating, when it comes, is impressive: it has never been filmed before.
For six years zoological and marine mammal reproductive physiologist Holley Muraco has been trying without success to breed Pacific walruses, and only 15 pups having been born in captivity in the last eight decades. To discover more about their behaviour she heads from her base in California to their breeding grounds in northern Alaska to see if the answers can be found in the wild.
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