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Florida's Most Famous Manatee Celebrates 65th Birthday

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The oldest manatee ever to be held in captivity celebrated his 65th birthday on Sunday.

In what was one of the first recorded births in captivity, Snooty was born at the Miami Aquarium and Tackle Company on July 21, 1948. In 1949, he was transferred to the South Florida Museum in Bradenton, where he has been living comfortably ever since.

To celebrate the occasion, the museum held a free birthday party.

Over the years, Snooty has proven to be invaluable in teaching scientists about conservation and education of the state's marine life.

And as the AP reports, he has not been slowing down his routine, even as he enters old age:

Snooty, who is in good health, eats about 80 pounds of lettuce and vegetables every day to sustain his 1,000 pound body. He shares a tank with two smaller manatees that are being rehabilitated for cold stress. And lately, he appears thrilled to greet his visitors from the media.

Robert Bonde, a research biologist and manatee expert for the United States Geological Survey in Gainesville, says that Snooty's age could in fact be the norm, if not for human actions:

Bonde said that among the wild manatee carcasses found in Florida, research showed the oldest was 53 — yet the average manatee only lives to be about 13 due to man-made threats and environmental stressors, such as cold weather. Although Snooty is the longest lived manatee in captivity, it's entirely possible that they could live just as long in the wild if they didn't face threats like boat propellers, said Bonde. "It's tough to be a manatee in Florida," he said.

Daniel Rivero is part of WLRN's new investigative reporting team. Before joining WLRN, he was an investigative reporter and producer on the television series "The Naked Truth," and a digital reporter for Fusion. He can be reached at drivero@wlrnnews.org
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