ORLANDO — A death in the family is a painful thing to experience, and that’s exactly how Mike Boos felt this week when Johnny began to deal with issues related to old age, and passed away.
Now the zoo team at SeaWorld Orlando is experiencing a genuine sense of mourning over the passing of Johnny, a 24-year-old polar bear that died suddenly on the morning of Thursday, July 31.
Boos, SeaWorld’s vice president of zoological operations, said the beloved polar bear will definitely be missed.
“Johnny was a part of our animal family,” Boos said. “He’s been in our care since he arrived in 1995 and a number of our team members have cared for him during that entire time. They’re feeling the loss, in much the same way a family does when they lose an older pet.”
Boos said he expects SeaWorld’s fan to experience a similar sense of loss and regret.
“Johnny enhanced the awareness of polar bears to millions and millions of SeaWorld Orlando fans and visitors,” Boos said. “He’ll be missed by our guests and team members.”
The death also caught the SeaWorld team by surprise. As the theme park noted, this past week Johnny had been undergoing a scheduled physical examination, and appeared to be fine.
“The procedure went well and there were no unexpected problems while he was under anesthesia,” the Orlando theme park noted in a news release.
However, attending vets now think the polar bear may experienced a cardiac arrest during his recovery. A complete necropsy is expected to be done, and more results will be known then. The exam results are not expected for another six to eight weeks.
“While Johnny experienced several progressive and old-age-related conditions, including a skin condition and lameness, his death was unexpected,” SeaWorld noted.
As it turns out, Johnny lived longer than the average polar bear.
Polar Bears International, the world’s leading polar bear conservation group — which is dedicated to saving polar bears by saving their sea ice habitat – notes that polar bears typically live between 15-18 years in the wild, although some can live up to 20 or even 30 years. But only a small percentage, the organization notes, live past 18 years.
Sadly, they are also endangered, Polar Bears International notes on its website.
“Biologists estimate there are 20,000 to 25,000 polar bears,” the organization notes. “About 60 percent of those live in Canada. Polar bears are also found in the U.S. (Alaska), Russia, Greenland, and Norway (Svalbard). In May 2008, the U.S listed the polar bear as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act, citing sea ice losses in the Arctic from global warming as the single biggest threat to polar bears. Polar bears depend on sea ice for hunting, breeding, and in some cases, denning. In recent years, summer sea ice losses in the Arctic have been accelerating.”
Polar Bears International also encourages people across the globe to help in the effort to save polar bears.
“It’s important to remember that time remains to save polar bears by reducing greenhouse gas emissions — and we can all do our part to make this happen,” the organization writes. “Thank you for the things you’re already doing to help polar bears, like eating less meat, riding your bike, and adjusting your thermostat.”
SeaWorld, which opened its Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin exhibit in 2013 — allowing guests to catch a glimpse of life in Antarctica — notes that conservation groups and scientists “see many threats to the wild population of polar bears, including climate change, poaching, pollution and a rapid loss of sea ice. Zoos across the world who care for polar bears give millions of visitors the opportunity to gain insight into the plight of the polar bear, inspiring efforts and the interest in saving them.”
SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment operates programs to rescue sick and injured marine animals, with the goal of rehabilitating them and returning the animals to the waters. SeaWorld animal experts have helped more than 22,000 animals in need – ill, injured, orphaned and abandoned – for more than four decades.
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