Akituusaq the Walrus has passed away. The 2-year-old Pacific walrus cashed in his chips last Tuesday at his New York Aquarium home after a bout with pneumonia. Mayor Bloomberg once said of him: he “melted the hearts of millions.”

He was the first walrus born at the aquarium and only the 10th born in captivity in North America since 1968. Akituusaq made a much-publicized debut at the aquarium on September 26, 2007 (he was born June 12, 2007) and immediately caught the hearts of all, beloved by millions of visitors.

Even though the baby walrus was born in Brooklyn, his floppy mien enthralled the country. His name, which means “gift given in return” in the Yupik language, which is spoken in parts of Alaska, was selected through a nationwide competition that tallied more than 9,000 votes. The result was announced on the “Today” show. The other contenders were Utvak (Ice Cube), Ukiivak (King Island) and Utumek (Earth).

Akituusaq was truly an adorable creature; his life ended far too soon and we’ll miss him.

New York Times