BRADENTON, FL (WFLA) -The South Florida Museum says Snooty, the world's oldest known manatee, has died just one day after celebrating his 69th birthday.
The museum made the devastating announcement Sunday afternoon on Facebook.
His death is being referred to as a "tragic accident." Circumstances are still being investigated, but investigators do not expect foul play.
"Our initial investigation indicates that Snooty's death was a heartbreaking accident and we're all quite devastated about his passing," Museum CEO Brynne Anne Besio said in a release. "We're reviewing what happened and will be conducting a full investigation into the circumstances."
Snooty was found in an underwater area that's only used to access plumbing for the exhibit life support system, according to museum staff. They say it seems that an access panel door that's normally bolted shut had somehow been knocked loose and the manatee was able to swim in. Museum officials said at a press conference Sunday afternoon that at this time, they have not been able to determine how the hatch was knocked loose.
Three other manatees in his habitat are all okay.
For years, Snooty held the distinction of the museum's resident manatee. When asked if the museum had plans to have another resident manatee, Provost & COO Jeff Rodgers said "We are still processing Snooty's loss right now, we don't know if we will have another resident manatee."
The aquarium will stay closed while staff continues to investigate and grieve Snooty's death.