ORLANDO, Fla. - A reward is being offered for information that leads to an arrest of the person who scraped the word "TRUMP" onto a manatee's back.
The Center for Biological Diversity announced the $5,000 reward after the manatee was spotted in north Florida's Homosassa River.
Officials with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Florida's Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission began their investigation after the manatee was discovered on Sunday.
"It’s heartbreaking that this manatee was subjected to this vile, criminal act," said Jaclyn Lopez, the Florida director of the Center for Biological Diversity, in a news release. "It’s clear that whoever harmed this defenseless, gentle giant is capable of doing grave violence and needs to be apprehended immediately."
Photo courtesy: Hailey Warrington
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Spokeswoman Christina Meister said in a news release that "the manatee does not appear to be seriously injured as it seems that the word was written in algae on the animal's back."
She provided an official statement from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:
"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," said Aurelia Skipwith, Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is aware of this incident and is working closely with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. If you have any information regarding this case, please call our wildlife crime tips hotline at 1-844-397-8477 or email us at FWS_TIPS@FWS.GOV."
Anyone with information can also call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation hotline at 888-404-3922.
Manatees have been protected under the Endangered Species Act since 1963.
Harassment of a manatee is a federal criminal offense, punishable by a $50,000 fine and up to one year in prison.