Last week was a cacophony of horrible Trump-related news, but this is the one that hit home hardest for me: a manatee with his name scraped into its back was found in the headwaters of Florida’s Homosassa river (via Citrus County Chronicle). At the moment it’s unclear whether the animal was actually injured, or if the name was just scraped into the algae on its back, but it’s a crime either way.
While US Fish and Wildlife officials told the Chronicle that they “[could not] comment on a current, ongoing investigation”, they’re asking anyone who may have information about who did this to reach out to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The Center for Biological Diversity is also offering a $5,000 reward for information that leads to a conviction.
An investigation could be difficult, though — manatees are, of course, live creatures, and while this particular one was found near a local swimming spot called Blue Hole, it’ll be hard to figure out where the manatee was when someone did this to it.
If the person is caught, however, it won’t be good news for them. Manatees are classified as threatened, and are therefore fall under the federal Endangered Species Protection Act. If someone is found to have criminally harassed a manatee, they could be facing up to a $50,000 fine, a year in jail, or both. Even just chasing a manatee while it’s swimming is considered harassment, so imagine scraping something into one’s back.
I lived in Florida for 15 years, and was on the water a lot. If there’s one thing that’s extraordinarily clear, it’s that you should not mess with the manatees. There are signs on every public dock telling boaters to watch out for manatees, and every natural science museum I went to had an exhibit on how manatees were threatened by motorboats and human activity. I vividly remember camping trips where rangers told us that we had to stop swimming in Manatee Springs because, surprise, there were manatees there, and they were not to be disturbed.
Getting to see them up close was a literally awesome experience, and it provided the one good piece of news that I can give you: manatees are tough creatures, and I’ve seen many swimming around with scars from boat propellers. Despite someone being so thoughtless as to scrape anything into its back, it should hopefully be okay.