Snooty, oldest manatee in captivity, dies after 69th birthday

Manatee drowned in 'heartbreaking accident'


BRADENTON, Fla. – Snooty, the longest living manatee in captivity, has died one day after a huge party to celebrate his 69th birthday.

The South Florida Museum posted a cryptic Facebook post Sunday revealing that the beloved manatee died in an accident. 

"Our initial investigation indicates that Snooty’s death was a heartbreaking accident and we’re all quite devastated about his passing,” Brynne Anne Besio, the museum’s CEO, said in a statement.

The manatee was found Sunday morning in an underwater area that was strictly used only for access to the exhibit's plumbing, the museum said in a press release.

Officials said it appears that an access hatch that is normally bolted shut got loose and Snooty swam through it. The other three manatees undergoing the museum's rehabilitation program, which each weigh less than the 1,300 pounds Snooty weighed, were not injured, officials said. 

On Monday, officials from the museum said Snooty somehow gained access to the 30-by-30 inch tube and was not able to turn around. Museum executives said the panel on the tube was last opened five years ago and is for emergency use only.

Manatees usually surface every 2-5 minutes, but can stay underwater for 20 minutes. They cannot swim backward.

Museum officials said the manatee's habitat undergoes a daily inspection, and nothing seemed to be out of the ordinary Saturday.

Snooty had been in good health, eating about 80 pounds of lettuce and vegetables every day to sustain his body. He loved to greet his visitors and ham it up for the cameras.

Snooty was born in Miami and had never lived in the wild.

The Museum said Florida Fish and Wildlife officials and the manatee's veterinarian of more than 20 years have taken Snooty to undergo a necropsy in St. Petersburg.

Museum officials said the manatee's cause of death is being investigated and the aquarium is closed until further notice.

“We’re reviewing what happened and will be conducting a full investigation into the circumstances. Snooty was such a unique animal and he had so much personality that people couldn’t help but be drawn to him," Besio said. "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.”

The aquarium thanked Snooty for the impact he made throughout his life.

"Throughout his life, Snooty contributed much to our understanding of manatees — not only did he participate in scientific research programs designed to help understand things like manatee hearing and vocalization, he also hosted other manatees that were being rehabilitated for return to the wild as part of the Manatee Rehabilitation Network," the museum said.

Plans for the public to remember and share their memories of Snooty will be shared at a later time, officials said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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