The death of Hugh, the 38-year-old male manatee that died at Mote Marine Laboratory last April, could have been prevented according to necropsy report findings published by the United States Department of Agriculture.
Hugh died from a 14.5-centimeter rip in his colon and injuries caused by a sexual encounter with a larger male Manatee named “Buffett” according to the report.
“The facility (Mote) failed to handle Hugh expeditiously and as carefully as possible to prevent trauma and physical harm, resulting in the death of the animal,” the report states.
Mote reported last April that Hugh had “passed away unexpectedly” at age 38, but there were no details then of the death resulting from an injury due to the sexual encounter.
Last week, on July 25, Mote elaborated on Facebook:
“On the day of Hugh’s passing, Hugh and Buffett engaged in natural, yet increased, mating behavior observed and documented in manatees both in managed care and in the wild.”
“…Hugh and Buffett were both observed initiating and mutually seeking interactions from each other throughout the day, and there were no obvious signs of discomfort or distress such as listing, crunching, or active avoidance that would have triggered a need for intervention,”
Mote added that its care team decided not to separate Hugh and Buffett because “separation has previously caused undue anxiety and negative effects in both manatees.”
Soon after the day of sexual encounter, on April 29, a change in Hugh’s behavior was noticed and he soon “became unresponsive in his habitat,” and died that day.
Hugh was born at the Miami Seaquarium and came to Mote in 1996 along with Buffett, who shared a tank. Hugh and Buffett participated in research projects.