BRADENTON -- Snooty has reached retirement age, and can now spend his time relaxing in a pool.
Of course, that's pretty much what the world's oldest manatee does every day.
But even though he won't break his routine, this is a special time for Snooty. Manatee's County's official mascot is turning 65 next month. And his friends at the Parker Manatee Aquarium at the South Florida Museum, where Snooty took up residence June 20, 1949, have a whole slew of festivities planned in celebration.
Snooty's official birthday is July 21, but his birthday party is set for Saturday, July 20.
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The party's official name is "Snooty's 65th Birthday Bash, Arts and Wildlife Awareness Festival." It'll run from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. and include children's games, entertainment and presentations about the importance of wildlife. It's free, and museum officials expect thousands of people
Bradenton Mayor Wayne Poston has proclaimed that July 20 will be "We Love Snooty the Manatee Day" in Bradenton.
Children all over the Bradenton area, and even some in other parts of the country, take part in the annual Birthday Card Contest for Snooty every year. Cards are judged on creativity, fun and originality, and prizes are awarded at the Birthday Bash to the best cards.
The contest is open to youngsters in preschool through sixth grade as of the 2012-2013 school year. The deadline is July 5. Entry forms are available at the museum or at southfloridamuseum.org.
All through the month of July, anyone born in 1948 -- Snooty's birth year -- who has an ID to prove it is admitted free to the museum.
Snooty received his twice-yearly checkup Monday from Dave Murphy, who has been Snooty's vet for many years. Murphy said Snooty is in great health, but he's starting to show signs of age.
"His skin is a little thinner, and his muscle tone is not what it should be," Murphy said.
Snooty's still energetic and enjoying life, and there's no telling how much longer long he might live, Murphy said.
"Every day he sets a new record," Murphy said.
Experts can determine the age of dead manatees, Murphy said, and the oldest ones ever found have been in the 50- 55-year-old range. Most Florida manatees only reach about age 8, according to museum officials.
Snooty has been in captivity his entire life, or close to it, so he hasn't had to face the diseases, boats, cold water or red tide that kill a lot of wild manatees.
Because he's the oldest known manatee in history, Murphy said, he's teaching researchers a lot about the life cycle of the species.
Snooty was born in the Miami area, but Murphy said he has a heard different stories about whether Snooty was born in captivity or came to a now-closed Miami aquarium at a very young age.
He came to the South Florida Museum in 1949 and has been a Bradenton resident ever since. He now shares his 60,000-gallon tank with two younger, smaller manatees named Longo and Cheeno, but he pretty much ignores them and prefers to interact with humans.
Longo and Cheeno will probably be released back into the wild next winter. Snooty is one of only four manatees in the country in captivity since before the Endangered Species Act passed, and that are therefore allowed to remain permanently in captivity.
For more information about Snooty, the Birthday Bash or the museum, call 941-746-4131 or visit southfloridamuseum.org.
Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-748-0411, ext. 7919. Follow twitter.com/martinclear.