The death of Manatee County’s official mascot, Snooty the manatee, has left many in the community mourning, while others are left demanding answers and justice.
Snooty drowned overnight between July 22-23, just one day after his 69th birthday celebration, after swimming into an area of his aquarium used to access plumbing and being unable to turn back. The area was kept shut by a cover with four screws that museum officials say was checked daily.
On Saturday afternoon, more than 30 protesters gathered outside the South Florida Museum demanding ‘Justice for Snooty’ and saying that it was the museum’s negligence that led to Snooty’s death. Protesters led by Florida Voices for Animals called for the resignation of CEO Brynne Anne Besio and Provost and COO Jeff Rodgers.
“Their COO after Snooty died went on live television and said that the panel that Snooty swam through where he died was checked by divers on a daily basis,” organizer Denise Anderson said. “The media-released photos taken two days before showed that same panel holding on by one screw.”
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Snooty should have died of old age, she said, instead of a “horrifying death by drowning.” Anderson said she was also speaking on behalf of people from around the world that have contacted her wanting justice for Snooty.
“Snooty is not here to get it himself, but we want to get it for him,” she said.
Anderson, 52, grew up in Manatee County and, like many others, Snooty had been part of her entire life, she said.
“No one is committed to the well-being of manatees cared for at the South Florida Museum than our team members,” the museum’s communications manager Jessica Schubick said in a statement previously released. “When Snooty the manatee tragically died in the Aquarium on July 23, leaders of Museum’s Board of Trustees and the CEO quickly endorsed, and are closely monitoring, a thorough review process, including outside experts, to collect all the facts around Snooty’s death.”
An outside committee comprised of manatee experts, including from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, in cooperation with Manatee Rescue and Rehabilitation Partnership, will review Snooty’s drowning and ensure best practices are being used at the aquarium.
Elise Matthes, who runs Florida Voice’s sister organization, Sarasota In Defense of Animals, said she was out of the country when she heard the news/
“It was very heartbreaking,” Matthes said. “I couldn’t believe it.”
Matthes said that, for her, what happened to Snooty would be the equivalent of an employee at her animal sanctuary leaving a gate open, and an animal getting out and dying.
“They would immediately be fired,” Matthes said.