In an unfolding story still under investigation, the world's oldest known manatee was found dead in a submerged cage on Sunday, the morning after his 69th birthday. Snooty, who's lived in the South Florida Museum for 68 of his 69 years, was found stuck in a maintenance hatch connected to the tank he shares with three young rescued manatees, reports the Guardian. How he got into the cage, which is normally bolted shut, is a mystery, and his camera is turned off overnight. "We're all devastated by his passing," South Florida Museum chief executive Brynne Anne Besio says. "I—and our staff, volunteers and board members—considered him a star. We all deeply mourn his passing."
Manatees, which Gizmodo describes as "nature's good boys and girls," are also called "sea cows" and closely related to elephants. The slow, mild-mannered aquatic herbivores are widely threatened by humans around the world and, though they've been found to live into their 40s in the wild, often die in their teens due to those many threats. Bay News 9 reports that people traveled from all over to celebrate Snooty's 69th birthday on Saturday, with one 13-year-old boy coming from North Carolina to meet the 1,300-pound manatee just before his death. The aquarium is closed as the staff investigate and grieve. (Advocates say the recent removal of manatees from one endangered list is premature.)