Snooty, who was the world’s oldest known living manatee, was found dead in a museum plumbing area after an accident apparently caused by a loose bolt.
The beloved mammal’s cause of death was revealed on July 23. Snooty, who was born in 1948 and viewed by millions, died shortly after his birthday, according to a Facebook post from the South Florida museum where he lived. The manatee was the subject of death hoaxes online in the past, but, this time, sadly, Snooty really is dead.
Manatees are large mammals sometimes known as sea cows. Many children and families visited the much-loved mammal over the decades he lived in the Bradenton, Florida, museum. People were very upset by the news. One woman wrote on the museum’s Facebook page, “How could this happen? Snooty shouldn’t have died!!! He deserved to die peacefully of old age. It’s like losing a family member. Snooty was our friend, we loved him.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Museum Called the Death a ‘Heartbreaking Accident’ & the Mammal Accessed a Normally Off-Limits Underwater Area
The museum where Snooty lived promised a full investigation into how the mammal died.
“The South Florida Museum is deeply saddened to share the news that our beloved Snooty has died. 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,” the museum wrote on Facebook. “Our current rehab manatees – Randall, Gale and Baca – are all fine. We know that our community and Snooty fans around the world share our grief. We will keep you updated as memorial plans develop. Please share your treasured memories and love for Snooty in the comments.”
The museum revealed in a press release: “Snooty was found in an underwater area only used to access plumbing for the exhibit life support system. Early indications are that an access panel door that is normally bolted shut had somehow been knocked loose and that Snooty was able to swim in. The other three manatees undergoing rehabilitation in Snooty’s habitat — Randall, Baca and Gale — are all fine.”
The museum added, “Snooty’s death was the result of a tragic accident and the circumstances are being investigated.”
The museum’s CEO said staff are devastated.
“Our initial investigation indicates 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, in a museum press release. “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. 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 museum noted that there was an inspection the day before and an animal autopsy, known as a necropsy, is being conducted.
“Snooty’s habitat undergoes a daily visual inspection and there were no indications the previous day that there was anything amiss. The Aquarium will remain closed while Museum staff continues its investigation and staff who worked with him have an opportunity to grieve,” the museum release noted.
2. Snooty Had Just Celebrated a Birthday & Was the County Mascot
Tragically, the mammal died after a big birthday celebration. Snooty turned 69 on July 21.
The museum built a lot of activities around Snooty, writing recently, “activities will include a Snooty Star Talk, a Snooty Scavenger Hunt, Birthday Cake with Snooty before his Birthday Bash on Saturday, and more!”
The museum even had a “Snooty Cam” in which people could watch Snooty live online. The website reported that Snooty was taking a nap on the live cam website on July 23, as it had not yet been updated with the mammal’s death.
Snooty is the Manatee County official mascot. “Snooty is one of the most-renowned stewards for his species and the environment, having greatly contributed to what researchers know about manatee,” reported Bradenton.com. “He weighs 1,230 pounds, is 9 feet, 8 inches long and has greeted more than two million visitors in his lifetime.”
3. The Museum Had Cared for Snooty Since Snooty Was Small
Snooty and the Bradenton museum have been intertwined for decades.
Snooty had “been in the care of the South Florida Museum since he was 11 months old. Snooty can be identified by his size, his large tail and two small indentations on his left side which are scars from having two skin infections treated several decades ago,” says the museum’s website.
The museum gets its manatees from SeaWorld.
“Snooty has some new pals in the Parker Manatee Aquarium! All manatees were brought to us from SeaWorld. They had been in the care of SeaWorld’s 1st stage manatee care hospital. The Museum works with SeaWorld to care for sick, injured, and orphaned manatees as part of the Manatee Rescue and Release Partnership,” says the website.
4. Snooty Was Born in Miami & Was Originally Called ‘Baby Snooks’
According to NBC, Snooty was born in Miami and “has never lived in the wild.”
Explained Bradenton.com, “Snooty is the oldest-known manatee in the world. In the 1940s, Samuel Stout, owner of the Miami Aquarium and Tackle Company, acquired a permit from the state to exhibit a single manatee named Lady. Unbeknownst to Stout, Lady was pregnant. She gave birth to ‘Baby Snooks’ on July 21, 1948.”
The museum wrote in the news release, “Snooty was born on July 21, 1948, at the Miami Aquarium and Tackle Company — the first recorded birth of a manatee in human care. He moved to Bradenton in 1949. ‘Baby Snoots,’ as he was then known, was brought to Bradenton as part of the 1949 Desoto Celebration and later that year he moved permanently to the South Florida Museum’s care. In 1979, he became Manatee County’s official mascot. During his lifetime, he greeted more than a million visitors.”
5. Snooty Was in the Guinness Book of World Records
Snooty’s longevity was record-setting.
The mammal was declared the “Oldest Living Manatee in Captivity” by the Guinness World Records, according to Bradenton.com.
Manatees are Florida’s official state marine animal.
They are “a large aquatic relative of the elephant,” reports Defenders.org. “They are grayish brown in color and have thick, wrinkled skin on which there is often a growth of algae. Their front flippers help them steer, or sometimes crawl, through shallow water. They also have powerful, flat tails that help propel them through the water. Despite their small eyes and lack of outer ears, manatees are thought to see and hear quite well.”