Manatee harassment launches federal investigation

Yvonne O'Halloran

The United States Fish and Wildlife Services (USFWS) has officially launched an investigation into the recent harassment of a manatee in Florida. The manatee was found swimming in North Florida with the word “Trump” scraped onto the algae on its back. The story was first reported by local media outlet Citrus County Chronicle.

The USFWS identifies manatees as a “threatened” species, a recent downgrade from “endangered.” As such, the animals are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act and Endangered Species Act. This means that harassing a manatee can lead to a fine of up to $50,000 and one year imprisonment.

Now, the USFWS is asking for tips to identify the person or people responsible for harassing the manatee. They are urging the public to contact the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation hotline at 888-404-3922. A reward will be given for information leading to the culprit’s conviction: the Center for Biological Diversity is offering $5,000 for information.

“This abhorrent action goes beyond the bounds of what is considered cruel and inhumane,” said Elizabeth Fleming, a senior Florida representative from non-profit animal protection organization Defenders of Wildlife. “I’m disgusted that someone would harm a defenseless creature to send what I can only assume is a political message. We will do everything in our power to help find, arrest, and successfully prosecute this coward.”

Article written by Tessa Altman- United States

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