A Florida aquarium is attributing the April death of a popular manatee to “high-intensity” sex with his brother.
Hugh, a manatee at the Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium in Sarasota, died in April at the age of 38. The staff noted he began exhibiting a change in behavior on April 29, and staff began monitoring him closely.
He then became unresponsive and ultimately was determined to have died.
Earlier this week, a necropsy report of Hugh’s last day revealed that he died from a 14.5-centimeter rip in his colon caused by a sexual encounter with another male Manatee, Buffett, who is also his brother, according to Sarasota ABC affiliate WWSB TV.
A fecal sample collected from Hugh after the encounter confirmed the presence of fresh blood and officials noted the manatees engaged in sexual behavior continued throughout the day.
Then around 5:15 p.m., Buffett was seen penetrating Hugh. When he swam away, witnesses noticed Hugh was at the bottom of the pool and unresponsive. It was later confirmed that he was dead.
In a Facebook statement posted Tuesday, the aquarium addressed Hugh’s death, saying the manatees “engaged in natural, yet increased, mating behavior observed and documented in manatees both in managed care and in the wild.”
Although the aquarium said the April incident with Buffett and Hugh “was the first time such heightened mating behavior was witnessed between the two manatees,” it said that in previous years, the two annually exhibited “approximately two months of seasonal behavioral changes including, but not limited to, an increase in sexual behavior.”
The aquarium said that 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.”
The post also said the aquarium’s animal care staff “used positive reinforcement tools such as high value rewards and enrichment that had previously been successful.”
Although the aquarium called itself “a gold standard for animal health and wellbeing” in the post, it also vowed to redouble ”our efforts to ensure our animal care operations meet or exceed existing and evolving policies, recommendations and guideline of the AZA, MRP, Animal Welfare Act, USFWS and USDA.”