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Saving Manatees at the South Florida Museum

The South Florida Museum tells Florida’s story from the prehistoric to the present. The downtown Bradenton facility includes a multitude of galleries about archeology, paleontology and local history, but general admission also includes access to shows in the all-digital Bishop Planetarium and the opportunity to enjoy the Museum’s Parker Manatee Aquarium. It’s there where you’ll meet a truly amazing creature making history each day: Snooty.

Snooty™ is a male manatee, known as Manatee County’s most famous resident and the world’s oldest manatee. Born on July 21, 1948, at the old Miami Aquarium and Tackle Company, Snooty’s birth was one of the first recorded births of a manatee in captivity. Originally known as “Baby Snoots,” he was brought to Bradenton as part of the 1949 Desoto Celebration. Since then, he has greeted more than one million visitors and become a true ambassador for the Florida manatee species. A large community celebration is held each summer in honor of Snooty’s birthday and in July 2011, he celebrated his 63rd birthday!

Based on his most recent annual exam in 2011, Snooty weighs 1275 pounds and measures 9 feet 8 inches. Manatees are herbivores with Snooty’s current diet including 70-80 lbs. of restaurant quality romaine lettuce each day as well as additional vitamins from cabbage, broccoli, and kale, with small amounts of carrot, sweet potato and apples. That’s a lot of lettuce! Snooty is a permanent resident of the South Florida Museum’s Parker Manatee Aquarium, but he also provides companionship to manatees in recovery.

Caring for Florida’s Endangered Gentle Giants

Working closely with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and critical care hospitals for manatees, the facility is a second stage rehabilitation facility, which means manatees are transferred to the Museum’s Parker Manatee Aquarium from a critical care hospital once their condition is stable. The Aquarium’s staff works 365 days a year to feed, monitor their condition and care for them until their release. Typically a “visiting” manatee stays for many months while recovering from cold stress (similar to frostbite), illness, injury or having been orphaned. Since joining the manatee rehabilitation network in 1998, the Museum has cared for 23 manatees. (The facility is not eligible for funding from the state or federal government directly for manatee care, so this program requires significant private support.) At the time of publication, Brandee and Charlie are Snooty’s current companions. Brandee was rescued in February 2010 from the Warner West Bayou in Bradenton after suffering from cold stress during the cool winter of 2010, and arrived at the Museum in August 2010. She is expected to be released in early 2012. A dependent calf at the time, Charlie was originally rescued from the Gasparilla Sound, part of the greater Charlotte Harbor watershed, with his mother who sustained injuries from a watercraft and subsequently did not survive. Charlie arrived at the Museum in May 2011 and once a combination of size, weight and behavior requirements are met, his release is expected in early 2013. The Museum’s Parker Manatee Aquarium is designed to house three adult manatees and holds 60,000 gallons of water, including a medical pool. The facility offers both deep and shallow water (3 ½ – 9 feet), allowing the manatees to maintain natural feeding behaviors and provides Museum visitors with above and below water viewing opportunities. Exhibits and daily presentations help to educate the public about manatee anatomy, habitat, nutrition and physiology.
Virtual Visits

We hope you’ll have a chance to meet Snooty and his manatee companions in recovery soon. However, you can virtually visit the manatees being cared for at the Museum online! Check out the “Snooty Cam” at www.southfloridamuseum.org, 8 a.m.-5p.m. Monday-Saturday and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on Sunday.

About the South Florida Museum The South Florida Museum is located at 201 10th Street West in downtown Bradenton. Current operating hours are Monday – Saturday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Sundays, noon – 5 p.m. (Closed Mondays seasonally.) General admission is $15.95 for adults, $13.95 for seniors (65 and over), $11.95 for children (ages 4-12). Children ages 3 and younger are admitted free when accompanied by a paying adult. The Museum is closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, the 1st Saturday in November and 2nd Monday in March each year. For more information, please call 941-746-4131 or visit www.southfloridamuseum.org.

The Mermaid Myth: Greek and Roman mythology speak of a female enchantress who was half woman and half fish. This woman, called a “siren” is said to have beckoned sailors at sea. The legend also calls these women “mermaids” and it is believed that what sailors actually saw were manatees. Columbus noted that the mermaids he saw were not as attractive as the artists’ renderings.

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