Shocking images of a manatee with the word “Trump” scrawled on its back have outraged wildlife experts.
The images have sparked a federal investigation by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, which has appealed for information on the incident. The word appears to be written in algae on the manatee’s back and it does not appear to be seriously injured, according to authorities.
Florida-based nonprofit wildlife group Save the Manatee Club says that the harassment of the animal shows disrespect toward manatees, which are protected under the Endangered Species Act and under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
“Save the Manatee Club was immediately made aware of the situation and is appalled at this disrespectful, harmful act toward an imperiled species,” it said in a statement released Tuesday.
The organization said that the person scrawling the word may have caused the manatee discomfort or pain. “Based on the photos and videos available, it appears that the perpetrator may have scratched the manatee’s skin with their fingers, scraping the algae that grows on the slow-moving mammals,” Save the Manatee Club explained. “They may have scraped the top layer of the manatee’s skin as well. Manatees have tough but sensitive skin, covered with tiny, sensory hairs, so it’s possible that this action may have caused the manatee discomfort or pain.”
The aquatic mammal was spotted over the weekend in the Homosassa River in Citrus County, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission confirmed. The area is about 80 miles north of Tampa.
The Citrus County Chronicle reports that the manatee was spotted in the river’s headwaters.
The Center for Biological Diversity, a nonprofit group that protects endangered animals, is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to a conviction in the case.
Harassing a manatee, a federal crime, is punishable by a $50,000 fine and up to one year in prison.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife told Fox News on Wednesday that it does not yet have an update on its investigation.
Fox News’ Bradford Betz and The Associated Press contributed to this article.
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