A heartbreaking video of a manatee with the word ‘TRUMP’ etched on its back spotted in Florida, US, has left netizens stunned. Even as the clip goes viral, the US Fish and Wildlife Service has opened an investigation into the harassment of the endangered animal.
The incident came to light on Monday after images and videos of the mutilated animal were first shared by the Citrus County Chronical, a local newspaper. The images have since gone viral, causing outrage.
According to the newspaper, the animal was reported to be swimming in the Blue Hole, headwaters of the Homosassa River in Citrus County, on Florida’s Gulf Coast.
“It’s been My experience that this is very out of character for this community,” Craig Cavanna, senior federal wildlife officer investigating the case, told the daily. “Wildlife conservation is a core value in Citrus County. That’s why it’s called the Nature Coast,” he added.
The animal was floating in the shallow waters on Sunday when a woman on a boat noticed something odd. “This is just disturbing. One hundred percent disturbing,” Hailey Warrington, who operates a family boat charter, told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
The woman took photos and video of the manatee and informed the authorities concerned. “It’s something we don’t see very often. When we do see it, it hurts our heart,” she added.
The federal wildlife conservation commission, which is investigating the matter, clarified that the manatee did not appear to be seriously injured “as it seems the word was written in algae on the animal’s back,” the New York Times reported.
⚠️HELP FIND WHO MUTILATED A MANATEE: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is investigating who carved the word “Trump” on a Florida manatee. USFWS is looking for any information: cal Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation hotline at 888-404-3922. https://t.co/FXQ2l3fYTj pic.twitter.com/jI9kL1BNe5
— Eric Feigl-Ding (@DrEricDing) January 11, 2021
As the politically motivated crime against the animal created a huge buzz online, the Centre for Biological Diversity, a conservation charity, also joined in to aid the investigation and announced a $5,000 reward for information leading to a conviction of those responsible.
“Manatees aren’t billboards, and people shouldn’t be messing with these sensitive and imperiled animals for any reason,” said Jaclyn Lopez, Florida director at the Center in a statement. “However this political graffiti was put on this manatee, it’s a crime to interfere with these creatures, which are protected under multiple federal laws,” she added.
Elizabeth Fleming, senior Florida representative for the Defenders of Wildlife, said she was taken aback by the viral images of the slow-moving plant eaters with no natural enemies. “Politics, as ugly as it has gotten, we need to do better at working it out among ourselves,” Fleming told The Washington Post. “This animal has nothing to do with politics. This animal is just trying to live its life.”
Manatees are protected by the Endangered Species Act and it is a federal criminal offense to harass the gentle sea cows, punishable by a $50,000 fine and up to one year in prison, CBS Miami reported.
As authorities are appealing for any leads on who might have assaulted the manatee, netizens are condemning the deplorable act and calling for a stern punishment.
Whoever had the audacity to carve “TRUMP” into an innocent manatee has a special place reserved for them in hell.
— Steph Frosch (@ElloSteph) January 12, 2021
I’m usually not one to be swayed by charismatic megafauna but Trump’s name being carved into that poor manatee is just unspeakably sad and enraging. Full solidarity with our non-human sea comrades against eco-fascism
— Kate Aronoff (@KateAronoff) January 12, 2021
I can’t watch the manatee video, it is repulsive someone would do that.
Everyone who reported on Hillary’s deplorable comment as if she’d said something inaccurate needs to atone, man.
Some Trump supporters out there are deplorable. Period.
— Jennifer Hayden (@Scout_Finch) January 12, 2021
This says everything. Broken, sick, entitled and enabled people.
— Sarah Reese Jones (@PoliticusSarah) January 12, 2021
Humans cause so much pain, suffering, and destruction for innocent animals and this beautiful planet’s environment. It is heartbreaking
— 𝐄𝐱𝐚𝐯𝐢𝐞𝐫 𝐏𝐨𝐩𝐞 (@exavierpope) January 11, 2021
What the hell?!?!? I lived in Florida 20 years. They are beautiful creatures. How could someone do that? Sick.
— #WearADamnMask (@GPSparty) January 12, 2021
Heinous sick behavior!
— Leslie (@Leslie64993617) January 11, 2021
Only feeling I have is I want to genuinely strangle the life out of who did this
— ⁱ’ᵐ ᵉˣʰᵃᵘˢᵗᵉᵈ (@Meeeegzzz) January 11, 2021
First: I love manatees. I swam with them numerous times there and they are magnificent, gentle creatures.
Second: I hope whoever violated this beautiful endangered animal experiences the full weight of the law crashing down on them. They deserve no less.
— Tuesday’s Child (@MakeYourBed1) January 12, 2021
Horrific. The disgusting people who did this don’t deserve life
— Andi Montgomery (@IndyExecFBO) January 12, 2021
I don’t understand people who torture animals. No matter what side of the aisle you’re on this is unacceptable. You know the person who did this talked about it and likely had company while they did it. Let’s find them and hold them accountable. https://t.co/fqvI1JFSch
— Leia’s Ghost – the spirit of Princess Leia Organa (@LeiaOrg03645326) January 12, 2021
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