Farewell, Snooty. The oldest known manatee in captivity died this weekend shortly after celebrating his 69th birthday. For reference, most manatees in the wild live to be about 40 years old if they are not killed by boating accidents.
“The South Florida Museum is deeply saddened to share the news that our beloved Snooty has died,” the Bradenton-based organization said in a statement. “Snooty’s death was a heartbreaking accident and the circumstances are being investigated so we can be sure we know the full details of what happened.”
Snooty was born not long after World War II concluded, coming into the world at the Miami Aquarium and Tackle Company on July 21, 1948, before being moved to Bradenton in 1949. His birthday was marked as it is every year with a celebration that saw Snooty be treated to a birthday cake made of fruits and vegetables.
The beloved creature even rose to fame as Manatee County’s official mascot in 1979 and regularly drew visitors from far and wide to the South Florida Museum.
According to museum officials, Snooty was discovered in an underwater area used to access plumbing for the exhibit’s life support system. The area was normally blocked off by an access panel to protect the manatees, but the door appeared to have been knocked loose accidentally. Randall, Baca, and Gale – the other manatees who lived with Snooty – were not harmed.
An official autopsy will be carried out at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Marine Mammal Pathobiology Laboratory in St. Petersburg to determine whether Snooty’s death could have been avoided.