Snooty, the oldest manatee in captivity, died Saturday (July 22) at age 69, after an accident at the South Florida Museum in Bradenton, Florida.
A morning visual check by museum staff revealed that Snooty was missing, and he was later discovered caught in a duct behind the tank he shared with three young manatees, Jeff Rodgers, the museum's provost and chief operating officer, said at a news briefing in Bradenton yesterday (July 23). [Marine Marvels: Spectacular Photos of Sea Creatures]
"Our initial findings indicate 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.
Though normally bolted in place, the hatch on the ducts — a system of two branching chutes that contains the life support system — had come loose. Although one of the ducts was big enough for the 1,300-lb. (590 kilograms) Snooty to enter, he was too big to turn around, which is how he became trapped, Rodgers said in the news briefing.
The three other manatees that shared Snooty's tank were unharmed, likely because, at less than half Snooty's weight, they were able to maneuver out of the duct, according to Rodgers.
Snooty, originally dubbed Baby Snoots, made an impact ever since 1948, when he became the first manatee born in captivity. He rose to fame after being declared Manatee County's official mascot in 1979 and appearing in a manatee documentary that aired on the popular children's TV series "Captain Kangaroo" three years later. More recently, Snooty was certified by Guinness World Records as the world's oldest manatee in captivity.
Snooty's loss has saddened many. Facebook user Stacy Jones Baldwin commented, "Heartbroken! Snooty was my 1st happy memory as a kid." Lisa Sunson, who first met Snooty days before his death, wrote, "I fell in love with Snooty watching him outsmart his caretaker and refuse to eat the kale she so diligently attempted to feed him by hiding it in his lettuce."
Snooty — lover of strawberries, pineapples and the spotlight — will be missed.
Original article on Live Science.