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Death of world's oldest manatee, Snooty, ruled 'preventable'

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Media captionThe BBC reported from the museum on Snooty's 65th birthday in 2013

Officials have ruled that a popular Florida manatee died as result of a "preventable accident" at the aquarium where it lived.

Snooty was the world's oldest known manatee, but drowned after becoming trapped in a maintenance area just one day after his 69th birthday.

The report revealed a repair had not been made to his broken pen panel.

He was beloved in the local area, and even became the Manatee County mascot.

The sea cow had lived at the South Florida Museum in Bradenton for 68 years after being bred in captivity in Miami. He died on 23 July.

The report said staff were aware that a panel leading to a maintenance area was loose and had screws missing a week before his death.

It is thought the panel then broke off during the night, and the 1,000lb (450kg) animal swam through, getting trapped in a 30in (75cm) tube where he drowned.

'Tragic accident'

Museum CEO Brynne Anne Besio blamed a communication breakdown for the lack of action, saying: "Reporting of these occurrences, if at all, was verbal and informal, and was not recorded in the dive logs".

"We have made, and continue to make, substantive changes, operationally and philosophically, to address the breakdowns that contributed to this tragic accident," she said.

The museum's aquarium still has three younger manatees in its care.

Animal rights protestors campaigned for senior staff resignations after the manatee's death.

The museum confirmed to local media that Marilyn Margold, the official in charge of the aquarium, no longer worked there, but refused to say if she resigned or was fired.

A memorial service for the animal will now be held on 10 September.

An online petition calling for the town's confederate monument to be replaced by a statue of Snooty has collected almost 14,000 signatures since his death.

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