Snooty the manatee is celebrating his 65th Birthday Sunday at the South Florida Museum in Bradenton, where he has gracefully swam about his tank, chewing lettuce and entertaining visitors since Harry S. Truman occupied the Oval Office.
To mark the occasion the museum will host a free party Saturday, the Associated Press reported.
He's the oldest manatee in captivity and possibly one of the oldest ever, experts say.
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"If you lived in a pool where people gave you a bath and fed you lettuce by hand and you had no other predators and the water was always a nice warm temperature, you'd be living long too," said Brynne Anne Besio, executive director of the South Florida Museum. "He's protected, he's safe, he has a great diet, he has regular medical care, and so he's got all the odds for him in terms of living long."
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.
"He loves cameras," said Marilyn Margold, the museum's aquarium director. Indeed, on a recent day, Snooty glided from his deep tank to a shallow medical tank and hoisted his torso above the water so he could sling a flipper onto the edge of the pool. When he spotted a video camera, he slowly inched forward toward its lens.
Snooty has been invaluable over the decades for education and conservation purposes, said Robert Bonde, a research biologist and manatee expert for the United States Geological Survey in Gainesville.
"Every year we celebrate a birthday for Snooty, it sets a new records as far as the aging potential for manatees," he said.
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.
Over the years, some have claimed that Snooty has been replaced by younger manatees. Museum officials laugh at the tales.
"That was a popular thing to do years ago: if you lose one marine mammal, you'd get another one and just give it the same name," said Margold. "In our particular case, it's not true. Snooty has two scars on his side from some abscesses that were removed over 30 years ago, and that's a real strong identification. Also he has a very predominant tail. And those two things are giveaways that it's the same Snooty."
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Manatees, also known as "sea cows," evolved from animals evolutionarily related to elephants and dugongs, a manatee-like creature that lives mostly in waters near Australia. Both creatures live long lives, just like the Manatee.
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