The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has opened an investigation into the harassment of a manatee which was found in a Florida river with the word “Trump” scraped into its back, a local newspaper reported on Monday.
The injured manatee was found on Sunday in the headwaters of the Homosassa River on the state’s west coast, about 100 miles (160 km) west of Orlando, the Citrus County Chronicle reported.
The manatee does not appear to be seriously injured as it seems that the word was written in algae on the animal’s back. Here is our official statement regarding this matter:
“West Indian manatees are essential members of the ecosystems in which they inhabit and are protected under the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act,” said Aurelia Skipwith, Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is aware of this incident and is working closely with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. If you have any information regarding this case, please call our wildlife crime tips hotline at 1-844-397-8477 or email us at FWS_TIPS@FWS.GOV.”
A spokeswoman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service did not immediately return a request for comment.
The Chronicle published a video showing an underwater view of the slow-moving mammal, with the word “Trump” etched in big letters into its back. The manner in which the letters were engraved was not immediately clear.
“The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is investigating the harassment of a manatee…reported to federal authorities over the weekend discovered w/ words "Trump" scraped in its back …discovered in Blue Hole on the Homosassa River” (via @CitrusChronicle )
Insurrectioning wildlife? pic.twitter.com/PvzI3pZ5Xn
— ??????? ???? (@exavierpope) January 11, 2021
The Tucson, Arizona-based Center for Biological Diversity on Monday said it was offering a $5,000 reward for information “leading to a conviction for the cruel and illegal mutilation.”
“It’s clear that whoever harmed this defenseless, gentle giant is capable of doing grave violence and needs to be apprehended immediately,” Jaclyn Lopez, the nonprofit group’s Florida director, said in a statement.
Manatees, nicknamed “sea cows,” are protected under the Endangered Species Act, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service’s website.
Harassment of a manatee is a federal offense punishable by a fine of up to $50,000 and/or up to one year in prison.
Video by Citrus County Chronicle via Twitter
Reporting by Gabriella Borter; editing by Jonathan Oatis