Snooty, the oldest manatee living in human care, died on Sunday, just two days after his 69th birthday. His death has received international attention. Snooty had no preexisting health issues at the time and the cause of death is being investigated. The South Florida Museum, where Snooty called home, released the following statement:
“Our initial findings indicate that Snooty’s death was a heartbreaking accident and we’re all quite devastated about his passing,” said Brynne Anne Besio, the Museum’s CEO. “We’re reviewing what happened and will be conducting a full review of the circumstances. Snooty was such a unique animal and he had so much personality that people couldn’t help but be drawn to him. As you can imagine, I — and our staff, volunteers and board members — considered him a star. We all deeply mourn his passing. We are honored to have had him with us for so long and will continue his legacy through our manatee rehabilitation program.”
Snooty’s death is labeled as accidental and a full investigation is being conducted. Despite inspections the previous day, finding no exhibit faults, Snooty was found underwater close to plumbing access for the exhibit’s life support system. Due to a panel that had become dislodged, it appears that Snooty was able to swim into this area and may have gotten stuck. A full necropsy will be performed at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Marine Mammal Pathobiology Laboratory in St. Petersburg, FL to gain more details about his death.
Snooty the manatee was the first recorded to be born in human care. He was born on July 21st, 1948 and moved to the South Florida Museum in 1949, where in 1979 he became Manatee County’s official mascot. He was even officially certified as the oldest captive manatee by Guinness World Records in 2015. Over a million visitors have seen Snooty up close and have had the opportunity to learn about the plight of the endangered manatee and learn what they can do to help. He participated in various scientific research studies to understand manatee vocalization and hearing. He also was a friend to fellow manatees, as he hosted those that were being rehabilitated before their release back into the wild. Snooty was indeed one of the greatest ambassadors for his species and his greatest legacy will be the awareness he raised for Florida manatees and how to protect them.