People From Around the World Grieve for Snooty the Manatee
Snooty at age 66. Image via the AP.
Just when you think all people are terrible, you come across a
story like this: thousands mourn and celebrate the life of a
Snooty the manatee–a baby boomer who survived the Cold War, 13
presidential administrations, and both the addition and removal
of his species from the endangered list–drowned senselessly on
July 23rd, 2017, when stuck in a maintenance hatch at the South
Florida Museum. (Manatees can’t swim backwards and need to
surface every 20 minutes to breathe.) Just two days earlier, a
celebration was held for his 69th birthday, attended–according
to one manatee on Twitter–by 5,000 people with
a cake made of fruits. He was the oldest known manatee in
Snooty was the official Manatee County mascot, the star of the
Snooty cam, and a kind of manatee Abe Vigoda, the subject of
reports of false deaths throughout his lifetime. In 2014, he
made Channel 8 news when one of those claims was debunked.
Nearly 13,000 signatures have accumulated on a petition to
replace a confederate monument with a statue of Snooty outside
the courthouse. A page on the South Florida Museum’s website,
“Remembering Snooty,” contains
highlights from his life and dozens of tributes from commenters
from around the world. Without hyperbole, this entry may be the
sweetest thing I have read in my life.
…It was a thrill to meet Snooty. He liked you, and was
unhesitating about showing it. Raised from infancy by humans
who’d loved and fussed over him and called him “Baby,” he’d
grown to love people right back.
And boy, did he love. As we grow up we realize it’s only
in Disney that marine mammals seek out humans to bestow
affection; when they do it’s the tip-off that their chosen
one has a pure heart. But the magical could happen for me at
the museum in Bradenton. When Snooty powered up from the
water to see me, suddenly I was special. As he gummed my hand
or elbow, taking progressively more of my limb past his
bristly face and into his toothless, chomping mouth, I knew
my abraded skin would sting for hours. And I absolutely did
not care. I never wanted it to end.
So when my mother got sick, and sped through her decline,
and my life became doctors and hospitals and almost unbridled
fear, I needed help to endure it. I went to the Museum.
Cradling Snooty’s head, I whispered, in the voice I’d use
with a baby, “I’ve missed you. I’ve missed you! How have you
been?” We sat together and I petted
and fussed over him while he gummed and nuzzled me, and in
time I was me again…
– Jennifer Turner Gans
Outrage has spilled into protests, when yesterday Florida
Voices for Animals demanded that the museum’s CEO, COO, and
negligent staff be fired. The museum is “strongly considering a
third-party death review,” the Orlando Sentinel
reports. Neither Florida
Voices for Animals nor a representative from the South Florida
Museum could be reached at this time.
For those of us who never got to meet Snooty, here is a video
of him from the South Florida Museum.