The discovery of a Florida manatee with “Trump” written on its back has prompted an investigation by state and federal wildlife authorities, The New York Times reports.
The manatee found on Florida’s Gulf Coast did not appear to be critically injured “as it seems the word was written in algae on the animal’s back,” the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said according to The New York Times.
However, the Center for Biological Diversity initially described the “political graffiti” of the president’s name as having been “carved” into the manatee’s back and causing “serious scarring.”
“Manatees aren’t billboards, and people shouldn’t be messing with these sensitive and imperiled animals for any reason,” Jaclyn Lopez, the center’s Florida director, said. “It’s a crime to interfere with these creatures, which are protected under multiple federal laws.”
State and federal wildlife authorities were investigating after a manatee with “Trump” etched on its back was spotted in Florida on Sunday. https://t.co/6CpOTv5z5N— The New York Times (@nytimes) January 12, 2021
According to the New York Times, the Center for Biological Diversity is offering a $5,000 reward for information that helps lead to a conviction “for the cruel and illegal mutilation” of the manatee, which is federally protected under the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
Manatees, which are the unofficial mascot of Florida, are also protected by the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act of 1978, which states that “it is unlawful for any person, at any time, intentionally or negligently, to annoy, molest, harass, or disturb any manatee,” according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
People who violate the state law can face up to a $500 fine and up to 60 days in jail or a fine of up to $50,000 and a year in prison if federally convicted, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.