Have you ever wondered what a manatee does all day? Marilyn Marigold, Director of Living Collections at the South Florida Museum, is one person who can give insight into the life of a manatee.
Taking care of Bradenton, Florida’s very own mascot, Snooty – the oldest living manatee in the world, Marilyn can tell all about Snooty’s care-free personality, his super-manatee eating powers and just what makes him so special to everyone he meets.
Q: How long have you been working at the South Florida Museum?
A: I’ve been working with Snooty for about seven or eight years, but I’ve been at the South Florida Museum for a little bit longer.
Q: Tell us about Snooty’s personality. Is he playful, lazy, goofy or what?
A: He’s like a thousand-pound dog! He’s been so influenced by humans that he responds more to people than what you’d expect. He has his playful moments, but he also has his lazy moments. It just kind of depends on the time of year and his mood.
Q: Can you walk us through an average day in the life of Snooty?
A: Snooty pretty much does what he wants. There are some things he’s gotten used to. We hand-feed him while divers are in the tank between 8 am and 10 am. That way his attention is on the food instead of the diver. At the same time, rehabilitation manatees are being fed from EEDs (Environmental Enrichment Devices) – we never feed them by hand.
After that, we may get school groups in and Snooty is fed during the presentations. We always give him an array of foods to let him pick and choose. Sometimes he’s picky and will squeak at us to let us know he wants something else. We feed him another four times in the afternoon and drop some residual food in the evening for a late-night snack. Sometimes we do training, but only when he’s in the tank by himself.
Q: It sounds like Snooty likes to eat. A lot. What kind of food does he eat all day?
A: He sure does. On an average, he eats 70 lbs. of romaine, and another 10 to 20 lbs. of cabbage, broccoli, carrots, sweet potatoes and sometimes iceberg lettuce or celery. He eats almost 90 lbs. of food every day.
Q: Snooty helps rehab other manatees to get them ready for the wild. Is that a new thing, or is that something that he’s always done?
A: It’s been a more recent thing. We became part of the manatee rehabilitation program in 1998, so he’s had 28 other manatees in the tank with him since then. It’s good for him because he’s had younger animals around that can stimulate him and give him interaction. And it really helps the other manatees because they’re not ready to be released back into the wild, but they have a big manatee that they can follow around. We’re just very careful to define the difference in how we treat Snooty compared to a rehab animal.
Q: You probably have a lot of good Snooty stories. Can you tell us your favorite?
A: One time when we introduced another manatee, it was a young male, Snooty looked at him with a little curiosity. But, at the same time, the four young women that brought that manatee over were down at the feeding station. So Snooty looked at the boy manatee, then he looked at the four female caretakers and made a beeline towards them. He figured he had plenty of time to meet the other manatee but didn’t know how long those girls were going to be around.
Q: What is it about Snooty that people love so much?
A: He’s personable. If you have the opportunity while he’s swimming around the tank, you look at him and he looks back at you – you have this sense that you’re the only person he’s looked at. I don’t know what it is, but everyone seems to notice. He just knows how to make people feel special.
Q: Is there anything else that you want people to know about Snooty or the Museum?
A: Snooty is really an ambassador to manatees and endangered species as a whole. So at the South Florida Museum, we’re more than just a place that houses manatees. We’re also a rehabilitation facility. We’re a place that cares for manatees by providing a safe place to live, food to eat, veterinary care and, eventually, releasing them back into the wild.
Visit the South Florida Museum in Bradenton to get up close and personal with Snooty and see what this manatee is all about. While you are there be sure to stop by the permanent and temporary educational exhibits, local art displays, and explore The Bishop Planetarium – a full dome, digital planetarium theater which is out of this world.
Manatee Feeding & Presentation Times:
Tuesday through Saturday: 11 am, 12:30 pm, 2:15 pm, & 3:45 pm
Sunday: 12:30 pm, 2:15 pm, & 3:30 pm
Tuesday-Saturday: 1 pm & 2:45 pm
Sunday: 1 pm
*Schedules subject to normal operating hours.
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