Following yesterday’s disturbing news that a manatee was found on Sunday in Florida with the word ‘TRUMP’ etched on its body, WAN talked to Christina Meister with the Office of Public Affairs at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Serviceheadquarters who confirmed that they are currently investigating the situation.
While it is an open investigation and updates are limited, Meister did share with WAN that, “The manatee does not appear to be seriously injured as it seems that the word was written in algae on the animal’s back.”
“However, touching, harming or harassing West Indian manatees is still illegal and is a violation of the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act,” continued Meister, who stated that it “does cause harm as it can cause stress and or interfere with their natural behaviors in the wild.”
In the meantime, the Center for Biological Diversity is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of the person or persons responsible for the cruel act in north Florida’s Homosassa River. According to the organization, harassment of a manatee is a federal criminal offense punishable by a $50,000 fine and up to one year in prison.
“It’s heartbreaking that this manatee was subjected to this vile, criminal act,” said Jaclyn Lopez, Florida Director of the Center, in a statement. “It’s clear that whoever harmed this defenseless, gentle giant, is capable of doing grave violence and needs to be apprehended immediately.”
Protected under the Endangered Species Act since 1963, manatees are slow-moving plant eaters with no natural predators. Sadly, boat strikes account for an estimated 20%of manatee deaths.
“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is aware of this incident and is working closely with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission,” said Aurelia Skipwith, Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in a statement sent to WAN. “If you have any information regarding this case, please call the wildlife crime tips hotline at 1-844-397-8477or email FWS_TIPS@FWS.GOV.”