HOMOSASSA, Fla. — Federal investigators are looking for the person who marked the word "TRUMP" on the back of a Florida manatee.
Officials with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission began investigating the crime after the manatee was found Sunday with serious scarring with the president's name.
“It’s heartbreaking that this manatee was subjected to this vile, criminal act,” said Jaclyn Lopez, Florida Director at the Center. “It’s clear that whoever harmed this defenseless, gentle giant is capable of doing grave violence and needs to be apprehended immediately.”
Hailey Warrington found the manatee on Sunday during a manatee swim tour in Homosassa Springs.
She said the manatee was asleep in shallow water at the time. She sent a video she took during the tour to ABC Action News on Monday.
Manatees are protected under the Endangered Species Act since 1963.
Harassment of a manatee is a federal criminal offense punishable by a $50,000 fine and up to one year in prison.
On Monday, the Center of Biological Diversity announced a $5,000 reward for information leading to a conviction of the person responsible.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials say the manatee does not appear to be seriously injured as it seems that the word was written in algae on the animal's back.
"West Indian manatees are essential members of the ecosystems in which they inhabit and are protected under the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act," said Aurelia Skipwith, Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Anyone with information on the incident can call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation hotline at (888) 404-3922 or email FWS_TIPS@FWS.GOV.