Ayveq, the walrus whose bizarre, though oddly compelling, masturbation rituals made him an international sensation at the New York Aquarium, has died. He was 14.
Though well-liked long before he discovered the habit that would make him a star, Ayveq’s frequent public self-gratification made him the Coney Island institution’s singular attraction.
“We are all still in shock about it,” Aquarium Director Jon Forrest Dohlin said. “He was an absolute delight. He had a magnetism and a charm that was totally his own. He loved people and he knew how to work a crowd and entertain guests — and himself. He did have a raffish charm, no doubt about it.”
The Aquarium said workers discovered that Avyeq was ailing on Sunday, June 15.
“On Saturday night, he was perfect — no problems at all,” said Dohlin, “but the next morning, we could see that he was not right.”
Within one week, he was dead, most likely of a “massive” bacterial infection, Dohlin said.
“We tried everything, but it progressed so rapidly,” he said.
The exact cause of death will not be known until an autopsy. A small memorial was held for Aquarium staffers on Monday. Ayveq’s body was then taken to the Bronx Zoo for cremation.
The beloved walrus moved to the Aquarium from his native Alaska in 1994, shortly after he and two brothers were orphaned. His name, curiously enough, means “walrus” in Siberian Yupik.
Zoo officials aren’t the only ones who miss the Pacific walrus with the frisky fins. Hours after the death was posted on The Brooklyn Paper’s Web site on Monday readers turned the comment section into a place to air their heart-felt condolences.
“As a former New York Aquarium intern, I will truly miss Ayveq,” wrote “Simon from Coney Island.”
The loss touched “Anonymous from BAM,” who described the scene around the tanks whenever Ayveq indulged in his not-so-private passion.
“He began using all four fins, up and down [and] laughter spread out through the crowd,” the witness said. “Only in Coney Island!”
The death of Ayveq comes almost exactly a year after the birth of his only (known) son, Akituusaq, whom he sired with the female, Kulusiq, after years of unrequited courting.
In lieu of herring, the Aquarium is recommending that Ayveq fans make a donation to the facility’s “Animal Enrichment Fund,” which buys toys for the residents. Tax-deductible donations can be made by visiting https://www.wcs.org/getinvolved/donations/57423/donate_now.