Death of Snooty the manatee was 'result of preventable accident'

Posted at 10:06 AM, Aug 31, 2017

After a long investigation, the South Florida Museum has stated that the death of "Snooty," the world's oldest-known manatee in captivity, was the "result of a preventable accident."

Snooty died in July at the age of 69. Snooty was found in an underwater area only used to access plumbing for the exhibit life support system. Their early indication led them to believe that an access panel door that is normally bolted shut had been knocked loose and somehow Snooty was able to swim in, where he got stuck and drowned.

They later determined that staff members could have prevented this from happening. 

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According to officials, a week before Snooty's death, Aquarium staff members became aware that there were screws loose on the panel that led to the tube where Snooty got stuck and drowned.

"Due to breakdowns in record keeping, reporting, communication and follow-through -- while some action was taken no action culminated in an effective repair," Jeanie Kirkpatrick, President of the South Florida Museum Board of Trustees wrote in a press release Thursday.

According to the museum, several factors contributed to this tragedy including:

  • Deficiencies in record keeping and reporting
  • A breakdown within departmental communications
  • A lack of proactive follow through
  • The need for improved staff training

The Museum has made, and continues to make, substantive changes -- operationally and philosophically -- to address the breakdowns that contributed to this tragic accident. Those changes include:

  • Changes in staffing
  • Retraining and cross-training Aquarium and facility staff on inspecting and assessing the habitat
  • New dive checklists
  • New record keeping, reporting and communications protocols
  • A new work order system for maintenance, repairs, and coordinating assistance from other departments

The museum released the following statement Thursday:

"This has been a challenging time for the South Florida Museum family, and we appreciate the overwhelming support we have received from you. I want to assure you that the Board of Trustees is confident that the Museum's executive staff has done a thorough job of analyzing the facts to understand what went wrong, has acted swiftly and appropriately to implement new procedures and restructure staff to make sure an incident like this never happens again.
Snooty brought joy to all of our lives and we remain committed to ensuring that his voice continues to inspire support for manatee rehabilitation, conservation and education for generations to come. I hope you will join us on Sept. 10 to help us honor his legacy during a special memorial open house and that you will remain committed -- as I am and as all of the members of the Board of Trustees are -- in our continued support for the Museum today and as we move forward in the wake of this tragedy."