ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.— The Center for Biological Diversity has announced a $5,000 reward for information leading to a conviction in an incident involving a threatened Florida manatee in north Florida’s Homosassa River.
A statement issued on Monday by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service indicates that someone apparently scratched the word “TRUMP” into algae on the animal’s back.
“Manatees aren’t billboards, and people shouldn’t be messing with these sensitive and imperiled animals for any reason,” said Jaclyn Lopez, Florida director at the center. “However this political graffiti was put on this manatee, it’s a crime to interfere with these creatures, which are protected under multiple federal laws.”
Officials with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission began investigating after the manatee was discovered Sunday. The New York Times reported that Hailey Warrington, a Crystal River boat captain, first spotted and photographed the manatee.
Anyone with information can call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation hotline at (888) 404-3922.
Protected under the Endangered Species Act since 1963, manatees are slow-moving plant eaters with no natural enemies. Most years boat mortality makes up about 20 percent of known human-caused deaths.
Harassment of a manatee is a federal criminal offense punishable by a $50,000 fine and up to one year in prison.