Though the Bradenton area is fortunate to have many great ambassadors, there is one in particular whose contributions sometimes go unnoticed.
The good news is, he doesn’t seem to mind.
Snooty the Manatee, the “Oldest Living Manatee in Captivity” according to Guinness World Records, resides at the South Florida Museum in downtown Bradenton and will turn 69 on July 21.
His annual Birthday Bash on July 22 provides the perfect opportunity to see him and celebrate his life and contributions.
For those who don’t know his history, 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. Soon after Lady gave birth, the Miami Aquarium and Tackle Company ceased operations. Bradenton brought “Baby Snooks” to the area for the 1949 De Soto Heritage Festival.
After meeting the baby manatee, local leaders decided to make “Baby Snooks” a permanent Manatee County resident and mascot. A 3,000-gallon tank was built for the young manatee at the Memorial Pier, where the Manatee Chamber of Commerce and the newly formed South Florida Museum were located.
“Baby Snooks” moved to his new home on June 20, 1949, and the South Florida Museum was entrusted with his lifelong care. His name quickly changed to “Baby Snoots” and as he aged, the name “Snooty” was adopted.
In 1979, Snooty became the official mascot of Manatee County. The South Florida Museum underwent renovations in 1993, and Snooty was moved to the 60,000-gallon habitat that he still calls home.
Today, Snooty is one of the most-renowned stewards for his species and the environment, having greatly contributed to what researchers know about manatees. He weighs 1,230 pounds, is 9 feet, 8 inches long and has greeted more than two million visitors in his lifetime – and he has “met” even more through the live SnootyCam. Some of his favorite foods are lettuce, carrots, broccoli and sweet potatoes. In fact, he eats 70 to 80 pounds of romaine lettuce and an additional 10 pounds of vegetables every day.
When he’s not eating, he’s helping to rehabilitate injured manatees. In addition to being Snooty’s home, the Parker Manatee Aquarium at the South Florida Museum is a second-stage rehabilitation center for sick or injured manatees, providing a temporary home until they are ready to be released back into the wild.
Thirty-three rescued manatees have been cared for by the museum in conjunction with the rehabilitation program since 1998 — including current residents Randall, Gale and Baca. As there are only three critical-care hospitals for manatees in Florida, second-stage rehab facilities provide a temporary home with skilled care so that more space is available in the critical-care facilities for new animals in need.
I hope you’ll consider coming out to celebrate Snooty and wish him a happy birthday on Saturday, July 22. Free to the public, the outdoor festival takes place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., with half-priced museum admission from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The festival will include exhibitors from regional wildlife awareness organizations, games and activities, food trucks, free snacks for kids, and an opportunity to sing “Happy Birthday” as Snooty gets his annual raw fruit and veggie “birthday cake” at noon. For more info, visit www.SouthFloridaMusuem.org or call 941-746-4131.
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (which monitors the manatee population), deaths of manatees in the wild are typically being documented before 15 years of age on average. Which means Snooty truly is a one-of-a-kind guy, and one we are lucky to call a Manatee County resident.