Museum: Snooty's death was preventable

Snooty the manatee

Snooty, the oldest manatee in captivity, died last month, and after a comprehensive investigation, museum officials said Thursday that his death was ultimately preventable.

"Mistakes were made," said Brynne Anne Besio, the South Florida Museum CEO. 

Besio said the staff learned that screws were missing in the access panel for the underwater plumbing area, and communicated the issue, but no action had been taken to repair it.

The result was the access panel falling off and Snooty swimming into the opening, unable to get out and drowning. 

Snooty had just celebrated his 69th birthday and was the oldest manatee in captivity, having lived at the museum for 68 years. 

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"His death was both painful and profound to us as individuals and us as an organization," Besio said Thursday. 

The accident was due to a breakdown in communication and lack of proactive follow-through, museum officials said, along with deficiencies in record-keeping and reporting. 

The museum said staffing changes have been made, and they are working to retrain and cross-train the staff in habitat inspections, creating new dive checklists, and inviting animal care experts and U.S. Fish and Wildlife in to look at the habitat and give feedback on staffing and protocols. 

"On behalf of the museum, I apologize," said Besio.

There will be a memorial for Snooty on Sept. 10th, which is free and open to the public. 

Three manatees still live at the South Florida Museum, and they will be released back into the wild once they have been nursed back to health.