Museum investigates Snooty’s death

Snooty sand sculpture
Snooty fans made this sand sculpture of the beloved marine mammal in Bradenton Beach after his July drowning. - Cindy Lane | Sun

South Florida Museum officials are taking steps to make the aquarium safer after the death of Snooty the manatee, Manatee County’s official mascot.

Snooty was discovered drowned on Sunday, July 23, the day after his 69th birthday party, trapped in a small area used to access the aquarium’s life support system equipment, according to museum officials, who said he entered through a dislodged access panel that is normally shut.

To protect three manatees being rehabilitated before release, museum staff has secured the panel and reinforced it with three half-inch, high-density PVC supports and added six more stainless steel screws to the panel, originally secured by one screw in each of four corners, according to the museum.

The panel is visually inspected daily by divers in the aquarium, but had not been opened for five years since the life support system was working, museum CEO Brynne Anne Besio said at a press conference shortly after the drowning.

The museum also has initiated a review of the aquarium’s procedures, protocols and facility by the Manatee Rescue and Rehabilitation Partnership, a group of not-for-profit, private, state and federal entities that includes the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, according to a press release. The museum also will work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which inspects the aquarium.

“No one wants to understand what happened more than we do,” Museum Provost and COO Jeff Rodgers said in the release.

Snooty was the world’s oldest known living manatee, according to Guinness World Records.

Known originally as Baby Snoots, he was born in captivity on July 21, 1948 in Miami and was moved to Bradenton in 1949.

A memorial service for Snooty is being planned and will be announced soon, museum officials said. The Museum’s website offered a place to share remembrances of Snooty.

Snooty mourned on social media

In the days following Snooty’s drowning in July, people expressed their emotions on The Sun’s Facebook page.

Terry Spetter: “Just heartbreaking.”

Maddie Lynn: “Am saddened to read today (25 July 2017) of Snooty’s untimely passing, secondary to undisclosed causes that were not natural. It is regrettable that human care, which has allowed Snooty to outlive his natural lifespan in the wild, turned out to be the cause of his death. I hope that whatever caused Snooty’s death will be quickly and transparently dealt with, so that the keeping of animals like manatees will not come under attack. Rest in peace, Snooty. May your legacy live on and on.”

Greg Borowski: “We loved Snooty!”

Julie L. Cannon: “I’m very curious how a door that is bolted shut at all four corners comes undone easily enough for a manatee to swim in and die.”

Brian Hollinger: “If it was last unbolted 5 years ago, then perhaps the bolts rusted and sheared off when bumped by a big manatee?”

Debbie Pitman: “Someone needs to be held responsible.”

Caroline McKinney: “Ah, so sad. Never got to meet Snooty but sad news – I feel for all the staff at the aquarium during this time.”

Richard Reynolds: “I sure do miss Snooty.”

Michelle Kermes Santagata: “This is so heartbreaking. We loved going to visit Snooty and attending his parties. So sorry for this loss that will be felt by so many.”

Susan Mahoney: “Snooty, you will be so missed. My heart hurts for the people that work at the Aquarium.”

Laura Bednarczyk: “RIP Snooty. You gave many adults and children education and joy. You will be missed.”

Deb Canham: “How very sad that he died like that. So upsetting for all who knew him.”

Caryn Hodge: “RIP Snooty!”

Maureen Finnerty Shuman: “Heartbreaking.”

Iris Gline Bernstein: “Very sad.”