Wildlife authorities are investigating the molestation of a manatee in Florida. The animal had the word ‘Trump’ carved on his skin. Harassment of manatees is a federal offense in the United States.
The West Indian manatee was spotted with ‘Trump’ on his back on Sunday in the waters of the Homosassa River on the west coast of Florida, where the animals gather at this time of year looking for warmer waters.
The shallow waters of the canals make the manatees accessible to tourists who take boat excursions to swim among the large but harmless animals. That also makes them more vulnerable to attack by humans.
The Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has opened an investigation to find the person(s) responsible for abusing the manatee. They could face up to one year in prison and/or a fine of up to $50,000.
It is not clear when the animal was harmed. The Citrus County Chronicle published a video showing an underwater view of the slow-moving mammal, with the word ‘Trump’ written in big letters.
The Center for Biological Diversity said it was offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to a conviction in the case.
Manatees, nicknamed “sea cows,” are protected under the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act. The gentle animals can grow up to 4 meters in length and weigh up to half a ton. There are around 6,300 manatees in Florida.
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, of the 637 manatees that died in 2020, 90 were victims of crashes with boats and 15 others were killed by other interactions with humans.