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Jozu, SeaWorld's last surviving false killer whales, dies

By Elizabeth Batt     Jun 5, 2012 in Environment
Orlando - Yesterday, Digital Journal reported that SeaWorld Orlando's last false killer whale had been moved into critical care over the weekend. SeaWorld is now reporting that Jozu has died.
Jozu, was the last last surviving false killer whale (FKW) at SeaWorld Orlando and in the Continental US. Over the weekend Jozu was moved into Animal Care after falling critically ill.
Park guests who did not wish to be identified, told Digital Journal on Sunday that the 17-year-old false killer whale who performed in SeaWorld's Blue Horizons show was so ill, that she had to be removed into a partially drained pool indicating that she was not strong enough to swim on her own.
SeaWorld closed down Jozu's habitat, the Manatee, Whale and Dolphin Theater, along with the dolphin petting pool, at midday on Saturday, during peak park hours. At one point SeaWorld Educators, even told guests that the "black whale" had died, but Jozu finally succumbed and died late Monday afternoon.
Like Sully the Pilot Whale who died at the San Diego facility on May 23, SeaWorld told News 13, that Jozu had a history of chronic health problems.
Jozu was born in captivity at Orlando on Sep. 3 1994 to Hana and Teri, and is the last of sixteen Pseudorca crassidens, to have lived at the Orlando facility since 1976. The young whale had been solo since 2008 but was kept with other species.
According to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), false killer whales are large members of the dolphin family. Females reach lengths of 15 feet, and males almost 20 feet. Jozu at 17 is still considered a young false killer whale - maximum longevity is 63 years.
SeaWorld Orlando's first false killer whales, were four who had stranded themselves in 1976. Only two were named, Cruiser and Sharky. All four of the mammals died within a month. Another stranded FKW was acquired on Mar. 12 1982 and lived for just four days.
Hana, Yaki, Teri, Suki, and Zori were the next mammals to arrive in Orlando – Teri and Suki in 1983. All were wild caught in Japan. Three years later in June 1986, two stranded FKWs were taken to the facility, one died in July.
In 1987, SeaWorld welcomed Cassie but she died less than two years later. Hoshi went to Orlando in 1988, and like Cassie had been wild caught. In 1993, Akira was born to Suki and Terri, she lived for just four years. A subsequent calf also died before finally, Jozu, (Akira's half-sister), was born in 1994.
It seems Jozu [SWF-PC-9401] and Akira [SWC-PC-9301] were studied by researchers from day one in an attempt to understand nursing behaviors in captive false killer whales. The study clearly identifies Akira and Jozu:
The two female calves in this study were born at SeaWorld Florida (no. 9301 on 24 December 1993 and no. 9401 on 3 September 1994). Both calves were sired by the same male (no. 8526), but had different dams (no. 8327 and no. 8527). All parents had been at this park since 1984 and were wild caught in the Western Pacific (Japan).
Researchers Steven T. Clark and Daniel K. Odell published their final results in the 1999 edition of Aquatic Mammals. They determined that in all instances, except for nursing periodicity:
Calf 9301’s values exceeded those of calf 9401 [...] The influence of captivity (e.g. feeding and show schedules, veterinary examinations, confines of the pools, etc.), although diffcult to precisely ascertain, may be another factor and cannot be ignored when examining mother and calf behavior.
False killer whales are pelagic animals that tend to prefer deep, open water. A highly social species, females don't reach sexual maturity until 8 to 11 years and they carry a calf for between eleven to almost 16 months. Once a female gives birth, she will not breed again for almost seven years.
As yet, there has been no word of what Jozu may have died from, but SeaWorld said that a necropsy for the false killer whale has been scheduled. "Results," said a spokesperson, "won't be known for a few weeks."
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