Florida manatee found with ‘TRUMP’ written on its back

The Center for Biological Diversity said it was offering a $5,000 reward Monday after a manatee in Florida was found with the word “TRUMP” written on its back recently.

According to the Center for Biological Diversity press release, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission began investigating after the manatee was discovered with the letters on its back in the area of the Homosassa River Sunday.

Floridians and visitors were shocked to learn that someone would do this to a manatee. Emily and Joe Baglieri were angry.

“They’re very beautiful peaceful creatures they don’t bother anybody and it’s a shame,” Joe said.

Some people wondered if this was real and how. “It’s probably somebody trying to destroy Trump’s reputation,” said Linda Pickens. But the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service confirmed that it is real.

According to a statement to WINK News by U.S. Fish and Wildlife, “The manatee does not appear to be seriously injured, as it seems that the word was written in algae on the animal’s back.”

Hailey Warrington, a charter captain with Crystal River Charters, first discovered the manatee. She told WINK News the animal was seen at noon Sunday during a manatee swim tour in shallow water in Homosassa Springs while it was sleeping. Warrington says, after she took pictures and video of the animal, she immediately reported it to USFWS and FWC law enforcement agencies.

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% of known human-caused deaths.

According to USFWS, “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. 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. Touching, harming or harassing manatees does cause harm, as it can cause stress and interferes with their natural behaviors in the wild.”

USFWS encourages the public to submit any tips about this incident. Anyone with information can call the wildlife crime tips hotline at 1-844-397-8477 or email at [email protected].

MORE: USFWS – Report wildlife crimes

Harassment of a manatee is a federal crime, with the offense punishable by a $50,000 fine and up to one year in prison.

Those who share tips leading to a conviction for the act against this threatened species could be eligible for the award being offered by Center for Biological Diversity.

Anyone with information can also call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation hotline at 888-404-3922.

Jaclyn Lopez is the Director at Center for Biological Diversity. “Regardless of how somebody used this manatee as a political billboard or statement, anything scrawled on an endangered species like a manatee or sea turtle or bird or whatever all of those would’ve been wrong or unlawful acts,” Lopez said.

Forrest Blake hopes whoever did this is brought to justice. “I hope they find who did that and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law,” Blake said.

“Keep the politics out of it. These animals aren’t political they’re not for any Democrat [or] Republican. They’re just out there enjoying their water,” said Bruce Wohler.

Reporter:Dannielle Garcia
Writer:WINK News
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