Walrus at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium dies at age 24

TACOMA, Wash. -- A Pacific walrus named Joan died Thursday at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium in Tacoma, the zoo said.

The 24-year-old walrus had been suffering from declining health in the last few weeks, zoo officials explained. They say Joan recently stopped eating and responding to her keepers.

Joan died during a medical procedure where veterinarians were trying to determine what was wrong.

“Joan was an extraordinary animal, and this is a difficult loss for all of us who cared for her,” said Dr. Karen Wolf, the zoo’s head veterinarian.

Wolf suspects a possible gastrointestinal blockage or neurological disease contributed to Joan’s declining health, but a necropsy will determine the cause of death.

Joan arrived at the zoo in 2006 as part of a breeding program. Pacific walruses are considered a vulnerable species in the wild.