Prevention of Walrus Tusk Wear with Titanium Alloy Caps
IAAAM Archive
Laurie J. Gage; Robert Negrini; Susan Negrini; Debbie Quihuis
Six Flags Marine World, Vallejo, CA, USA


A five year old female walrus (Odobenus rosmarus) had a history of wearing the ends of her tusks by rubbing them on the rockwork in her exhibit. To prevent further wear, the end of each tusk was protected with a titanium alloy cap. The criteria for the cap was for it to be strong enough to withstand the rigors of her activities, and to be as thin-walled as possible to prevent it from being caught on an edge and dislodged.

The procedure involved creating a mold of each tusk out of dental impression material. This was done as a trained behavior with the walrus allowing the specialized cup of impression material to be held for the appropriate amount of time to obtain the mold. From the mold of each tusk a plaster replica was made. Titanium-alloy caps were made to fit the replicas, allowing space for the dental cement.

The walrus was trained to station long enough to allow the caps to be placed on to each tusk. A glass ionomer dental cement-powder mix was used to bond the caps to the tusks. The walrus was kept out of the water and supervised for 30 minutes to allow enough time for the cement to fully set before she was allowed back into the exhibit.

The longevity of these tusk caps has been impressive. Both were originally placed on the tusks in January 1999. One cap had to be replaced in January 2001. The other cap is still in place, over three years after it was originally bonded to the tusk. The tusks continue to grow normally and while the walrus continues to occasionally rub the ends, there is little wear to the titanium caps.

Speaker Information
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Laurie J. Gage, DVM
Six Flags Marine World
Vallejo, CA, USA

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