Video of a manatee with ‘TRUMP’ written on its back goes viral, probe launched – The Indian Express

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.

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.

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