MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Today marks two years since people here in Tampa Bay, and around the world, learned the devastating news that Snooty the manatee had died. This past Sunday would’ve marked Snooty’s 71st birthday.
Snooty, the world’s oldest-known manatee, died on July 23, 2017, at the South Florida Museum in Bradenton. His death came just days after Snooty celebrated his 69th birthday.
The aftermath of Snooty’s death
One day after Snooty’s death, the museum announced the cause of the beloved manatee’s death was drowning. Snooty was somehow able to swim into an underwater area only used to access plumbing. Museum officials say an access panel door that is normally bolted had somehow been knocked loose.
“Our initial investigation indicates that Snooty’s death was a heartbreaking accident and we’re all quite devastated about his passing,” Museum CEO Brynne Anne Besio said in 2017.
The museum later admitted the accident resulting in his death was preventable and said proper protocols were not followed.
One month after the manatee’s death, News Channel 8 confirmed that the official in charge of the aquarium – Director of Living Collections Marilyn Margold – no longer worked for the museum.
Early in 2018, the South Florida Museum hired Virginia Edmonds as the new aquarium director.
The community’s response
Snooty’s death sent shockwaves throughout the community. In the days following his death, dozens of people showed up to the South Florida Museum to mourn. Several brought flowers, cards and even bouquets of lettuce.
Thousands of fans posted their memories of the manatee to social media, prompting the South Florida Museum to launch an online memorial and gallery.
Some fans even started a petition, calling for a Confederate memorial statue to be replaced with a statue of Snooty.
The history of Snooty
“Baby Snoots” was born on July 21, 1948, at the Miami Aquarium and Tackle Company. It was the first recorded birth of a manatee in captivity.
Snooty was transported to Bradenton when he was 11 months old and moved into his permanent home at the South Florida Museum. Snooty was crowned the official mascot of Manatee County in 1979.
In 2015, Snooty was officially recognized by Guinness World Records as the world’s oldest captive manatee. Snooty spent his entire life in captivity. Experts said he was so used to being fed that he wouldn’t last out in the wild.
In his nearly seven decades of life, museum officials estimate he greeted about two million visitors in person and online through the Snooty Cam.