World Find Who Wrote 'Trump' on Manatee to Get $8,000, Says Animal Rights Group
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The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) is offering an $8,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of whoever wrote the word "Trump" on the back of a threatened manatee.
The West Indian manatee was found swimming in Florida's Homosassa River in January. Wildlife officials said the word appeared to have been spelt out using the algae that often grows on the back of manatees—and, as early reports had suggested.
West Indian manatees, also known as Trichechus manatus, are listed as threatened in Florida under the Endangered Species Act. There are thought to be more than 6,300 in the state.
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They are also covered by the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which prohibits their harassment. The legislation defines harassment as "any act of pursuit, torment or annoyance" that could harm the animal or potentially disturb its natural behaviours.
The ALDF had initially offered a reward of $3,000, but announced on Tuesday that this had been increased by $5,000.
A violation of Section 11 of the Endangered Species Act could be punished with a fine of up to $50,000, a prison sentence of up to one year, or both. A person who violates Section 105 of the Marine Mammal Conservation Act may face a civil penalty of up to $10,000 per violation.
Stephen Wells, executive director of the ALDF, said in a statement: "It's troubling that someone has interfered with a threatened species and there are laws in place to prevent this type of incident. We hope the additional reward will reinvigorate the case—and a witness will come forward."
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In January, Charles Underwood, supervisor of operations support and communications for the Florida Ecological Services Office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, told Newsweek: "The manatee does not appear to be seriously injured as it seems that the word was written in algae on the animal's back."
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission are investigating the incident.
There are three species of manatee: the West Indian manatee that lives along the east coast of the Americas from North America to Brazil; the Amazonian manatee that lives in theRiver; and the African manatee that lives along the west African coastline.
Manatees are sometimes known as sea cows. Like land cows, they drink their mother's milk and graze. Because of their large size and slow speed, manatees are vulnerable to hunters, which has put pressure on their populations. They have been hunted for their hides, oil and bones.
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Although they are protected today, manatees still face risks from human activity, such as being hit by boats or getting tangled in fishing nets. Their numbers have been increasing over the past 25 years, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service.
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