The manatee found in Florida this week had the capital letters “Trump” engraved on the back, prompting investigations and pleading for help from non-profit conservation organizations.
The Center for Biological Diversity said it will provide a $5,000 reward for convictions of threatened manatees in the Homosassa River in Citrus County, Florida’s Gulf Coast County, for “cruel and illegal killing” of manatees.
The center’s Florida director, Jaclyn Lopez, said Monday: “It’s sad that this manatee has suffered this evil criminal act.”
The center said that the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission began investigations after the scars left by the president’s name were found after the manatee was found on Sunday. The discovery was reported by the Citrus County Chronicle.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service stated that the manatee did not appear to have been seriously injured, “because the word appears to be written on the back of the seaweed.”
Patrick Rose, the executive director of the non-profit organization “Save the Manatee Club”, said he had seen a photo of the manatee earlier on Monday and was upset.
He said Monday from Gainesville, Florida: “This is a harassment of endangered species.” He added that the manatee appeared to be adolescent.
Other protectionists were also shocked by him.
“This abhorrent action is beyond the scope of cruelty and inhumanity,” said Elizabeth Fleming, senior representative of the Florida Wildlife Defenders organization. “I am very disgusted that someone will hurt an indefensible creature and send me information that I can only consider to be a political message. We will do everything we can to help find, arrest and successfully prosecute this coward.”
The manatee, the most popular unofficial mascot in Florida, is a large, slow-moving mammal. According to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, there are approximately 6,300 manatees in Florida. In colder weather, they tend to gather near power plants in South Florida to bask in the sun.
They are under federal protection under the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Manatees are also protected by the Florida Manatee Reserve Act of 1978, which stipulates: “It is illegal for anyone to harass, harass, harass or harass manatees at any time, deliberately or negligently.”
Mr. Ross of the Florida Manatee Advocacy Group said that engraving the president’s name on the manatee’s back “will be a form of harassment, which will be illegal under state and federal laws.”
Those who violate state laws will face fines of up to $500 and up to 60 days in prison. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission stated that the maximum penalty for a federal conviction is $50,000 and one year in prison.