New aquarium director moving forward in wake of Snooty’s death

BRADENTON, Fla. (WFLA) – It’s been nearly six months since the world’s most beloved manatee, Snooty, drowned in his tank. The South Florida Museum has now hired a new aquarium director as the organization tries to move forward in the wake of this tragedy.

Snooty was quite the celebrity. Along with being the mascot of Manatee County, he was known around the world as the oldest manatee in captivity.

In July, he celebrated his 69th birthday. But sadly, two days later, he was found dead. He became trapped in an underwater compartment when a panel came loose.

The museum has now hired Virginia Edmonds as its new aquarium director. She spent 20 years working with rehabilitated manatees at the Lowry Park Zoo.

“I knew Snooty, everybody knew Snooty,” said Edmonds. “I felt sad like everybody else would. My career with animals, I had losses too, so it’s hard to lose an animal.”

The last director, Marilyn Margold, stepped down after Snooty’s death.

Edmonds has her work cut out for her. Snooty was the museum’s star attraction. Now she has to guide the aquarium toward the future. But Snooty’s spirit will always be there.

“Snooty was an ambassador for manatees. People knew about manatees because of Snooty, this South Florida Museum had manatees because of Snooty,” said Edmonds.

Museum CEO Brynne Anne Besio says policies and procedures have been updated.

“The whole thing has made us a stronger organization,” said Besio.

The aquarium will soon get big upgrades with new equipment so it can become a critical care facility. They want to turn it into an important regional center to help injured manatees.

“Southwest coast is a tough coast for manatees with red tide. This is a red tide coast, and there’s red tide out there right now for manatees,” explained Edmonds.

It’s a way to honor Snooty’s legacy by helping others.

“He’d want what we want…he wants us to help manatees. He wants us to help manatees in a bigger way, if we can do that and be a part of that,” said Edmonds.

The future of the museum is bigger than just the aquarium. They are expanding, adding in more learning spaces and classrooms.

Snooty will forever be a part of this place, but they’re moving forward.

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