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Report Calls Death of Snooty the Manatee A Preventable Accident

Mark Schreiner
WUSF Public Media
South Florida Museum Board VP John Quinlan (from l-r), CEO Brynne Anne Besio and Board President Jeanie Kirkpatrick present findings of a report into the death of Snooty the manatee.

An outside review has determined that the drowning death of Snooty the Manatee could have been prevented.

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

The 69-year-old captive manatee was found dead July 23, two days after his birthday.

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 that the maintenance panel in the manatee tank was loose or missing screws a week earlier, but an effective repair was never completed.

"Due to breakdowns in record keeping, communication, follow-through and reporting, some action was taken, but no action culminated in actual repair," Besio said.

Credit Mark Schreiner / WUSF 89.7 News
WUSF 89.7 News
A manatee display sits outside the Parker Manatee Aquarium at the South Florida Museum in Bradenton.

Museum officials say that outside experts have been brought in to suggest alterations to both their procedures and the manatee tank.

They also said that there have been changes in staffing - but refused to answer multiple questions from reporters about whether anyone was fired as the result of Snooty's death, citing staff privacy.

Spokeswoman Jessica Schubick later confirmed to the Associated Press that Marilyn Margold, the aquarium's director when Snooty died, no longer works for the museum. 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.

"We are going beyond simply fixing the issues related to the accident," Besio said. "We want to honor Snooty's legacy by providing as much as we can to the manatee rehabilitation program."

She added they plan to return all three to the wild over the next few months.

The museum says Snooty was certified in 2015 as the longest-living manatee in captivity. A memorial service will be held September 10 at the museum.

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