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Hugo (pronounced hju-GOH) was an approximately 15-year-old male Southern resident killer whale who lived at the Miami Seaquarium. He was captured on February 22nd, 1968 from Vaughn Bay, Washington at approximately 3 years old. Hugo passed away due to a brain aneurysm on March 4th, 1980. He was the first orca to be kept at the Miami Seaquarium.

Early Life and Capture[]

Hugo was born sometime around 1965. As a Southern Resident, he would've most likely spent nearly all of his time with his mother and the rest of his family. His main food growing up would've been Chinook Salmon.

Hugo was captured in Vaughn Bay in Washington on February 22nd, 1968, along with Lupa. [1][2][3] After capture, Hugo was kept at a holding pen in Seattle before being transferred to the Miami Seaquarium in May of 1968. Hugo was named after Hugo Vihlen, a pilot who sailed the Atlantic alone in a sailboat. His voyage took 85 days, the same amount of days between Hugo's capture and his arrival at the Miami Seaquarium. [4]

Life at the Miami Seaquarium[]

For the first two years of his life at the Miami Seaquarium, Hugo was kept in a tank called the "celebrity bowl" with Pacific white-sided dolphins. Today, the tank houses manatees. [2] Former Miami Seaquarium dolphin trainer Ric O'Barry recalls how small the tank was. In his book Behind the Dolphin Smile, he wrote "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." [5]

In late 1970, a female orca later named Lolita was brought to the park. Originally, they were kept separately. Lolita was housed in the park's new orca tank while Hugo remained in the celebrity bowl because there was concern that they would fight. After hearing the two whales calling out to each other, it was decided to put the two together in the new orca tank. Fortunately, the two got along. [2]

Hugo was known to have a habit of ramming his head into the walls of his tank. In early 1971, there was an incident in which Hugo broke a hole in a plastic window and severed the tip of his rostrum. It was surgically reattached, but the piece of skin sloughed off within a week. Hugo had a small dimple on the tip of his rostrum for the rest of his life. [6]


In January of 1980, Hugo started acting sluggish. Two months later, he died on March 4th, 1980. The cause of death was a brain aneurysm. Before he died, Hugo had been "thrashing" and ramming his head into the wall of his tank, which some believe contributed to his death. After his death, Hugo's body was disposed at an undisclosed location, believed to be the Dade County Landfill. [2] His companion Tokitae lived alone at the Miami Seaquarium without other orcas for the rest of her life.

Behavioral Incidents[]

Hugo had a history of aggression at the Seaquarium. In late 1970, a trainer stuck his head in Hugo's mouth and Hugo bit down on him. The trainer had to get ten stitches in his head and neck. [7] Trainer Mike Jax stated in 1972 that Hugo had hurt people by bumping with his head when he was annoyed. [8] Multiple other trainers stated that Hugo had attacked and acted aggressively towards people. At least one got a permanent scar on his arm from the whale. [9]


Transfer History[]

Hugo's Transfer History
Vaughn Bay, Washington Vaughn Bay Sea Pen, Washington Feb. 20, 1968
Vaughn Bay Sea Pen, Washington Seattle Marine Aquarium, Washington Feb. 23(?), 1968
Seattle Marine Aquarium, Washington Miami Seaquarium, Florida May 16, 1968