A day after celebrating his 69th birthday, Snooty, the oldest living manatee in captivity, has died, according to the South Florida Museum.
The museum, which housed Snooty at its Parker Aquarium, announced the news Sunday via Twitter and Facebook, saying the manatee died as the result of an apparent accident. Three other manatees currently being rehabilitated at the museum were not harmed.
Jeff Rodgers, the museum’s provost and chief operating officer, said a plumbing access hatch at the bottom of his tank somehow got open. Snooty, who weighed about 1,300 pounds, made his way into the area but was unable to free himself before he died.
The museum said the circumstances of Snooty’s death are being investigated. His longtime veternarian and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission were overseeing a necropsy to determine an exact cause of death.
"Our initial investigation indicates that Snooty's death was a heartbreaking accident and we're all quite devastated about his passing," said Brynne Anne Besio, the Museum's CEO. "We're reviewing what happened and will be conducting a full investigation into the circumstances. Snooty was such a unique animal and he had so much personality that people couldn't help but be drawn to him. As you can imagine, I — and our staff, volunteers and board members — considered him a star. We all deeply mourn his passing. We are honored to have had him with us for so long and will continue his legacy through our manatee rehabilitation program."
Snooty turned 69 on Friday, and the museum honored him on Saturday with his annual birthday party.
The reaction to the tragic news was quick via social media.