MIAMI (CBSMiami) – There is now a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for carving the word 'Trump' onto the back of a manatee in north Florida's Homosassa River.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has confirmed to CBSMiami it is investigating the incident. However, they stated on Tuesday, the "manatee does not appear to be seriously injured as it seems that the word was written in algae on the animal's back."
Regardless, the Center for Biological Diversity, a nonprofit group that protects endangered animals, is offering the reward.
"It's heartbreaking that this manatee was subjected to this vile, criminal act," said Jaclyn Lopez, Florida director at the Center. "It's clear that whoever harmed this defenseless, gentle giant is capable of doing grave violence and needs to be apprehended immediately."
CBS affiliate WTSP-TV reports the inscribed manatee was discovered Sunday in shallow water in Homosassa Springs in Citrus County, about 75 miles north of the Tampa Bay area, by boat charter operator Hailey Warrington, who took pictures and video of the sleeping animal.
"This was uncharacteristic for our area," Warrington told WTSP. "As a tour guide, I was distraught, just as much if not more than the manatee was."
"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."
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It is a federal criminal offense to harass manatees punishable by a $50,000 fine and up to one year in prison.
The slow-moving warm-blooded mammals are known to congregate in Florida's warmer waters during the Winter.
If you have any information regarding this case call the FWS wildlife crime tips hotline at 1-844-397-8477 or email FWS_TIPS@FWS.GOV.
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