South Florida Museum holds 65th birthday bash for Snooty the Manatee

Snooty the Manatee

Snooty the Manatee. Credit: South Florida Museum

Snooty, the official mascot of Manatee County, turns 65 on Sunday, but this year his South Florida Museum home is hosting a spectacular birthday party for the new senior citizen a day early on Saturday, July 20, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

A longtime Manatee County tradition, past parties for Snooty have traditionally included a children’s birthday card contest and treats for the kids, but this year the Museum’s free 65th Birthday Bash and Wildlife Awareness Festival is expected to be the largest one ever held.

Parker-Aquarium

The South Florida Museum in Bradenton is expecting a big crowd for Snooty’s Birthday Bash and Wildlife Festival. Credit: Deborah J Bell

10th Street West in front of the museum will be closed to traffic during the event, and visitors can enjoy entertainment and presentations from the Garbage Band, Sarasota Jungle Gardens, and Pure Dancers, as well as a misting station and water slide, face painting, balloon twisting and children’s games galore.

In addition, visitors will have opportunities to learn about environmental preservation and interact with wildlife and arts organizations from all over the area, including Mote Marine Laboratory, the Bat Conservancy, Busch Gardens, the Pittsburgh Pirates and Bradenton Marauders, Bishop Animal Shelter, Save the Manatee Club, Sara Bay Estuary Program, Manatee County Natural Resources Department, and Envirokids, among others.

Snooty will receive a special fruit and veggie "cake" on his big day. Credit: South Florida Museum

Snooty will receive a special fruit and veggie “cake” on his big day. Credit: South Florida Museum

The highlight of the party is scheduled for noon in the museum’s Parker Aquarium, where Bradenton Mayor Wayne Poston is expected to lead the crowd in singing “Happy Birthday” to Manatee County’s most beloved aquatic celebrity. Snooty will then be presented with a specially prepared fruit and veggie “cake,” made from the manatee’s favorite healthy treats.

NetWeave Social Media is hosting the presentation of Snooty’s birthday cake for the South Florida Museum in an online livecast on Livestream from 11:50 a.m.- 12:20 p.m. on June 20th. To register for the livecast, follow this link. Pre-registration is suggested.

Snooty is the world’s oldest known manatee on record, having started life at the old Miami Aquarium and Tackle Company in 1948, and he has the distinction of his being the first recorded birth of a manatee in captivity. “Baby Snoots,” as he was known then, was brought to Bradenton as part of the 1949 Desoto Celebration, and has since greeted more than one million visitors.

Snooty is a big ham when it comes to media attention. Credit: Deborah J Bell

Snooty is a big ham when it comes to media attention. Credit: Deborah J Bell

Snooty has participated in training with New College and the Mote Marine Laboratory staff, contributing to our knowledge of manatees and their physiology. He is the subject of informative talks given several times daily at the Manatee Parker Aquarium, covering everything from questions about eating habits (an herbivore, Snooty consumes 80-90 lbs. of lettuce, carrots, kale, cabbage, collards, bok choy, broccoli, and apples each day) to reproduction (as manatees cannot be bred in captivity, Snooty himself has remained a bachelor to this day).

The Festival itself is free, and reduced admission to the Museum and Planetarium. Credit: Deborah J Bell

The Saturday Festival is free to all, while the Museum is offering discounted admission rates. Credit: Deborah J Bell

The Parker Manatee Aquarium holds nearly 60,000 gallons of water, including a medical pool, and was designed to house three adult manatees. As part of the Manatee Rehabilitation Network, Snooty currently shares his space with two young rehabilitating manatees that will eventually be released back into the wild. Since 1997, more than 25 manatees have been cared for at the Aquarium.

The festival in the Museum’s Spanish Plaza and on outside on 10th Street is free, and there is reduced admission to the Museum, Planetarium & Aquarium all day Saturday. For more information, call 941-746-4131 or visit southfloridamuseum.org.

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Three’s company once more for Snooty

Snooty-colorful

What’s it like rubbing flippers with a superstar? Just ask “Longo” and “Cheeno,” the two young male manatees who arrived in Bradenton last Thursday and are now discovering what it’s like to share quarters with 64-year-old Snooty, the world’s oldest living manatee and South Florida Museum’s resident superstar.

Snooty-Longo-Cheeno-Pool

Snooty, Longo and Cheeno are fed by handler Colin at the Parker Aquarium. Credit: Deborah J Bell

Longo, rescued off of Longboat Key in January of 2012, and Cheeno, rescued in the Caloosahatchee River in February of 2012, first spent a little over a year rehabilitating from cold stress at Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa. The Zoo maintains a not-for-profit hospital to care for critically injured, sick and orphaned manatees.

Prolonged exposure to water temperatures below 68 °F (20 °C) can bring about “cold stress syndrome” in manatees, a life-threatening condition similar to frostbite in humans.

The South Florida Museum serves as a second-stage rehabilitation facility, and will now provide a temporary home for the two new manatees while they put on additional weight and can be released back in the wild. Since the two juveniles now weigh less than 700 pounds each, it is expected that Snooty’s newest roommates will be around for about a year.

Snooty-old-pool

Snooty used to live in a much smaller pool (as shown here), but now enjoys his own 60,000-gallon tank. Credit: South Florida Museum

Born at the old Miami Aquarium in 1948, Snooty’s arrival was a happy surprise for keepers who’d left one manatee swimming in the tank in the evening and come back the next day to find two instead. His was the first recorded birth of a manatee in captivity.

After his mother was released, Snooty was brought to Bradenton in 1949 as part of the DeSoto Celebration. He now serves as Manatee County’s official mascot, and has greeted more than a million visitors to his home on the Suncoast. His affectionate, friendly nature has helped visitors understand and appreciate the intelligence and unique characteristics of this endangered species.

Snooty welcomed his first pool mate “Newton” in 1998, and over the years since has graciously shared his 60,000-gallon tank in the museum’s Parker Manatee Aquarium with more than 20 different recuperating manatees. Because of his lifelong association with humans, Snooty has been classified as non-releasable, thus he is the only manatee at the aquarium allowed to directly interact with human handlers.

Read about Snooty’s end of year examination

Snooty’s ongoing participation in several research studies, including current research on the characteristics of manatee vocalizations, has helped to expand science’s understanding of the Florida manatee.

SFM

South Florida Museum is also home to the Parker Aquarium and the Bishop Planetarium. Credit: Deborah J Bell

Each July, several generations of visitors join Snooty in celebrating his birthday at a free “Birthday Bash and Wildlife Awareness Festival” at the Museum. Snooty receives thousands of birthday cards from children all across the country, prompting Ashley Burke, the museum curator of collections, to joke, “He gets more mail than the curator.”

The South Florida Museum is participating in The Giving Partner 36-Hour Giving Challenge, recognizing and supporting the work of nonprofits serving Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte and DeSoto Counties. Gifts made during the 36-Hour Giving Challenge are 100% tax-deductible and will support overall Museum operations.

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