Last weekend, a manatee with the word "TRUMP" carved into its back was spotted swimming near the Homosassa River in Florida. The poor animal doesn’t seem to be injured, but federal authorities have launched an investigation into the incident and are trying to find the person or persons responsible for harassing the majestic giant.
Word of the manatee's Trump branding was first reported by the Citrus County Chronicle, a local newspaper covering the happenings around Citrus County, Florida. The vandalism was documented by Hailey Warrington, a boat captain at a local fishing charter company. “We don’t typically see manatees harassed like that,” she told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
As the news spread, outrage over the incident started to pour in. The Center for Biological Diversity, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting endangered species, announced a $5,000 reward for any information that leads to a conviction. "Manatees aren’t billboards, and people shouldn’t be messing with these sensitive and imperiled animals for any reason,” Jaclyn Lopez, the Florida director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement.
On social media, people from all parts of the political spectrum expressed disgust and frustration over the manatee's defacing. People asked, "Who does this?!" and "Are you fucking kidding me?!" Others described it as, "Unspeakably sad and enraging." All reasonable reactions, because honestly, who defaces a manatee?
The sea cow appears to be fine, for what it's worth. While initial reports seemed to indicate that the president’s name was carved deep into the creature's skin, officials told the Associated Press that the marks appear to have been made in algae that had grown on the manatee's back.
Even if the manatee escaped unscathed, just messing with the creature is enough to get whoever is responsible into a whole heap of trouble. Manatees are protected by the Endangered Species Act, and messing with one in this manner is a federal criminal offense punishable with a fine of up to $50,000 and up to one year in federal prison. They also enjoy the federal protection of the Marine Mammal Protection Act and locally under the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act, which makes it illegal to "intentionally or negligently, to annoy, molest, harass, or disturb any manatee."
Having "TRUMP" written on your back certainly seems like enough to annoy anyone, including a manatee.