Hugo was kept at Miami Seaquarium in Florida for over 12 years, before he died at the age of 15 from a a brain aneurysm. He is believed to have been snatched from the wild at the age of three
An unhappy orca who was torn from his family in the wild and forced to do tricks for paying customers is said to have become so unhappy he “committed suicide” by slamming his head against a wall.
Hugo was kept at Miami Seaquarium in Florida for over 12 years after being captured aged just three off the shores of Vaughan Bay, Washington, according to animal welfare group The Dolphin Project.
The first few years he was kept in a “tiny pool” on his own, before a female orca, Lolita, was captured in the wild and the pair were introduced to one another and put into a new enclosure, dubbed the “whale bowl”.
Richard O’Barry, a former animal trainer and founder of the Dolphin Project, wrote “Behind the Dolphin Smile” about meeting Hugo.
In it he said: “When I fed Hugo, his tail would be lying on the bottom and his head would be completely out of the water.
“It was pathetic. They wanted me to train him. I refused and left in disgust.”
But despite being given a new companion the years in isolation had done their damage, and Hugo would appear to self harm and act aggressively towards his keepers.
It is claimed he would regularly hit his head against the side of tank and would bite the trainers who dared come near him.
In one horrifying incident Hugo is said to have slashed open his nose when he slammed into a plastic viewing bubble, breaking it.
He was left with a flap of skin around 3 inches long hanging off the end of his nose, which a vet had to reattach in a surgery.
But it was on March 4, 1980, when Hugo’s suffering came to an end, when he suffered a brain aneurysm.
Animal activists claim his repeated bangs to the head contributed to his death, referring to it as him “committing suicide”.
Hugo was just 15 when he died, far younger than the 80+ years orcas have been recorded living to in the wild.
The Orca Project)
Heartbreaking pictures of Hugo’s lifeless body being hoisted out of the pool where taken.
It is not known what happened to his body, although some reports claim it was disposed of in a landfill.
As for Lolita, she is now 55, and has spent her days since Hugo’s death utterly alone.
She spends her days swimming in a pool which according to Peta is, at its longest dimension, just four times the length of her body. The tank is only 20 feet deep at its deepest point and only 12 feet deep at many others.
Animal Welfare Institute marine mammal scientist Naomi Rose told told National Geographic in 2019 tnat orcas do not fare well in captivity due to their size and intelligence.
“It’s basic biology,” she said.
“If you have evolved to move great distances to look for food and mates then you are adapted to that type of movement, whether you’re a polar bear or an elephant or an orca.
“You put [orcas] in a box that is 150 feet long by 90 feet wide by 30 feet deep and you’re basically turning them into a couch potato.
“Not one marine mammal is adapted to thrive in the world we’ve made for them in a concrete box.”
Marine biologists widely accept the animals engage in self destructive behaviour, although it is not known if the whales understand the human term of “suicide”.
It comes after a heartbroken killer whale was filmed banging her head against the side of her tank after outliving her five babies.
The distressed orca, named Kiska, is in captivity at MarineLand in Ontario, Canada, and is seen thrashing against the perimeter of her pool in a 30-second clip.
Anti-captivity activist and whistleblower Phil Demers filmed the mum, nicknamed ‘the loneliest whale in the world’ by the Whale Sanctuary, and then shared it on social media.
The 43-year-old campaigner previously worked at the park.
The footage was uploaded with the caption: “This video was taken on Sept 4th, 2021. Anti-captivity activists entered MarineLand and observed Kiska, their last surviving orca bashing her head against the wall. Please watch and share. This cruelty must end. #FreeKiska.”