CITRUS COUNTY, Fla. – Crime Stoppers of Citrus County has partnered with The Animal Legal Defense Fund who has graciously offered an additional $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or people responsible for writing “Trump” on a manatee in the Blue Hole, headwaters of the Homosassa River.
The manatee was discovered on January 10th and, per a previous statement released by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, does not appear to be seriously injured as it seems the word was written in algae on the animal’s back.
“Although the manatee may not have suffered injuries, it is disheartening that someone has disturbed our community through such an ignorant act. Crime Stoppers of Citrus County takes animal cruelty, and harassment, seriously and is asking anyone that may have knowledge of this crime to please contact our program,” said President of Crime Stoppers Debbie Groff. “We are hopeful with the increased reward and guarantee of 100% anonymity that someone will use this opportunity to do the right thing.”
Manatees are considered a threatened species and are protected under the Endangered Species and the Marine Mammal Protection Acts. Under both federal laws, it is illegal to harass, wound, or annoy manatees. “Harassment” includes any act that potentially injures or disturbs an animal or causes a disruption to an animal’s normal behavior.
The maximum penalty for violating the Endangered Species Act is up to one-year imprisonment or a fine of $50,000, or both. The maximum penalty for violating the Marine Mammal Protection Act is up to one-year imprisonment or a fine of $100,000, or both.
“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,” says Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Stephen Wells. “We commend the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for their continued attention to this case and we’re hopeful that the local community will come forward with any information they have regarding this crime.”
Anyone that has information related to this incident is encouraged to reach out to Crime Stoppers of Citrus County at 1-888-ANY-TIPS or www.CrimeStoppersCitrus.com. Tipsters are guaranteed 100% anonymity and if the information provided leads to the arrest of the person or people responsible for this crime will be eligible for a reward of up to $8,000.