Snooty, the world’s oldest known manatee, died Saturday in what the South Florida Museum called a "heartbreaking accident," just one day after celebrating his 69th birthday.
The museum in Bradenton made the announcement Sunday afternoon in a statement on its website and in social media postings.
“Our initial findings indicate that Snooty’s death was a heartbreaking accident and we’re all quite devastated about his passing,” museum CEO Brynne Anne Besio said in the statement.
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Besio added that the museum staff members "deeply mourn his passing."
Early indications show that an underwater door leading to a plumbing area, which is normally bolted shut, had been dislodged. Snooty was able to swim in but was not able to get out.
The animal was no longer alive when workers got to him. Three other, smaller manatees that also swam in were able to swim out.
Officials are investigating the exact circumstances of Snooty's death and how the door opened. The museum's aquarium remained closed on Sunday.
A necropsy, or an animal autopsy, will be performed at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Marine Mammal Pathobiology Laboratory in St. Petersburg.
Snooty, according to the museum, was born July 21, 1948, and was the first manatee born in captivity. He became the mascot of Florida's Manatee County in 1979 and welcomed more than a million visitors in his lifetime.
Snooty also participated in scientific research programs that studied manatee biology and behavior.