One day after the South Florida Museum announced they would consider seeking outside help to determine what, if anything, could have prevented the drowning of Manatee County’s beloved mascot Snooty, museum officials have determined they will seek a third-party review.
“The museum is pursuing a third-party review of our care procedures and facility,” Communications Manager Jessica Schubick said Thursday.
The museum will ask the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to be part of an overall team of outside experts to ensure the museum’s best practices are being followed.
“All of the appropriate experts are involved with the Manatee Rescue and Rehabilitation Partnership, including the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, so we are working with the leaders of the MRP to determine the best next steps,” Schubick said.
What those steps will look like remains unclear, but museum officials are making it clear that they want to find out what happened, and to ensure nothing like it can ever happen again.
“There is no official structure or procedure for this,” Schubick said. “So we are working with the appropriate authorities to engage knowledgeable professionals to ensure we are pursuing best practices.”
Snooty died sometime Saturday night or early Sunday after a panel on the maintenance tunnel became dislodged and the manatee swam into it, became trapped and drowned. Security cameras are unable to determine how the panel door came open because the habitat is kept dark at night.
Staff and the community remain shaken over the death of Snooty, who turned 69 over the weekend and was the world’s oldest living manatee in captivity. Hundreds of people have poured out their hearts, sorrow, and even anger over Snooty’s demise.
“I remember the first time I saw him at age 36 months, he winked at me. I’ll never forget. Rest easy buddy,” Justin Garza posted on Facebook.
“Snooty was so loved by so many. My heart goes out to the museum staff who cared for him everyday,” wrote Malissa Milanese Reshke.
And Mark Skinner wrote, “I am disgusted in the lack of care that was taken to ensure his safety. This was human error. Negligence.”
Museum officials initially said they would do their own internal review, but with no answers as to what may have happened, Schubick indicated that an outside review from experts will at least ensure that this accident, though tragic, was indeed an accident and that best practices were followed.
Museum staff continue to work on the details of a memorial service for Snooty, and those details will be forthcoming in the next few days.