Review: Death of 69-Year-Old Manatee Snooty Was Preventable

Snooty was certified in 2015 as the longest-living manatee in captivity, according to the South Florida Museum

An outside review has determined that the drowning death of Snooty, a 69-year-old captive manatee in Florida, could have been prevented, officials said Thursday.

South Florida Museum CEO Brynne Anne Besio announced the findings after a review by animal welfare attorney James Gesualdi.

"On behalf of the Museum, I apologize for the mistakes that led to Snooty's death," Besio said in a statement. "We have made, and continue to make, substantive changes ... to address the breakdowns that contributed to this tragic accident."

Snooty, who the museum said was certified in 2015 as the longest-living manatee in captivity, was found dead July 23, two days after his birthday. While manatees can live up to 60 years or more, their lifespan in the wild is usually much lower. 

Officials said the 1,000-pound marine mammal got in a 30-by-30 inch maintenance tube but was unable to turn around. Manatees can stay underwater for 20 minutes but cannot swim backward. The review found aquarium staff members were aware of the maintenance panel being loose or missing screws a week earlier, but an effective repair was never completed.

Marilyn Margold, the aquarium's director when Snooty died, no longer works for the museum, museum spokeswoman Jessica Schubick confirmed. Schubick wouldn't say wither Margold resigned or was fired.

A telephone message left for Margold wasn't immediately returned.

The museum is continuing to work with work the state and federal wildlife officials to improve training and best practices, Schubick said. The museum is also still a member of the Manatee Rescue & Rehabilitation Partnership. The facility is currently caring for three manatees, which will eventually be returned to the wild.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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