This past Friday, Snooty, the world's oldest captive manatee, celebrated his 69th birthday surrounded by a singing crowd and a smorgasbord of fruits shaped into a makeshift cake. Two days later, he was dead after getting trapped beneath an underwater hatch.
Across South Florida, tributes have poured in for the fallen sea cow — from heads of lettuce left at Bradenton's South Florida Museum, where he lived, to protests about his death. But a group of Snooty fans has a longer-term idea on how to immortalize the tubby icon: a statue of Snooty to replace the Confederate memorial in front of the Bradenton courthouse.
A Change.org petition circulating since this morning has already garnered 1,400 signatures backing the idea.
"Snooty the Manatee has been a symbol of Bradenton... for almost 70 years," writes Anthony Pusateri, the petition's author. "To honor Snooty's legacy as a positive icon in Bradenton, I propose that the negative symbol of racism and oppression that is the Confederate monument be relocated and replaced with a statue of Snooty the Manatee."
Snooty arrived in Bradenton in 1949, at only 11 months old. Having lived through four wars and the civil rights movement, Snooty earned his spot in the 2017 Guinness World Records as the planet's oldest manatee. The museum where he lived for decades even had a "Snooty cam" so viewers online could watch what the manatee was up to in the tank. (The camera was down with technical difficulties the night of Snooty's fatal accident.)
The petition has quickly drawn support. Signers argue that, unlike the Confederate monument, a Snooty statue would unite residents.
Bradenton's civil war monument — a Washington Monument-esque shaft with a Confederate flag etched into one side — dates to 1924, when it was erected by the local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.
Local officials are aware of the budding movement, but there's no support from city hall just yet.
"Mayor [Wayne] Poston is out of town until tomorrow, but I can tell you in his absence that there has been no discussion to date about the petition," says Tim McCann, a city spokesperson. "I saw it mentioned on social media yesterday, but nothing has made its way to city hall. Furthermore, I don’t believe the mayor would have the final say about what’s on the courthouse grounds. That will be a decision of the Manatee Clerk of Courts."
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