In Tampa, Florida, the Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium are grieving the loss of their cherished resident manatee, Hugh, who passed away unexpectedly on Saturday.
Mote reported that their animal care staff started closely monitoring Hugh when they observed a change in his behavior earlier that day. Late Saturday afternoon, Hugh suddenly became unresponsive in his habitat at Mote Aquarium’s Marine Mammal Center. His animal care team quickly responded and found that he had died. Hugh was 38 years old.
“The Mote family is utterly devastated to announce that on April 29, our dear resident manatee, Hugh, died unexpectedly,” Mote stated in a news release on Sunday.
Mote explained that the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Marine Mammal Pathobiology Laboratory Institute will conduct a necropsy or animal autopsy to determine the exact cause of Hugh’s death. The results typically take about eight weeks or more.
According to Mote, Hugh was born at the Miami Seaquarium and arrived at Mote from ZooTampa nearly 27 years ago, on May 2, 1996. While at ZooTampa, Hugh served as an ambassador for his species and voluntarily participated in manatee research studies.
Mote also highlighted that Hugh and his brother Buffett are “the world’s only manatees to voluntarily take part in detailed behavioral research intended to support manatee conservation.”
The aquarium expressed their gratitude for the time they spent with Hugh and that his legacy will continue to live on.
“Hugh’s enduring and significant legacy will be his invaluable contribution to the scientific understanding of manatee behavior and his efforts to conserve his species,” Mote stated. “Our team is eternally grateful for the time we had with Hugh and his contribution to manatee conservation, and we are proud of our staff and volunteers for the level of care we provide to all the animals at Mote Aquarium.”
During this difficult period for the aquarium and Hugh’s animal care team, Mote is asking guests to remember Hugh’s remarkable life by sharing their favorite memories of him on their Facebook page.
“Hugh was a beloved member of the Mote family and the Sarasota/Manatee County community. We appreciate all the love and support as we collectively grieve his passing. Please join us in commemorating Hugh’s incredible life by sharing your favorite memory of him,” Mote said in a statement.