It is one thing to love animals but quite another to physically hug and hold them when it is a known wild and sensitive creature. One Florida man learnt it the hard way when he was arrested for hugging a baby Manatee.
21 year old Ryan William Waterman, is facing a misdemeanour charge that could see him pay a $500 fine and face six months in jail. Ryan posted a picture on his facebook account holding and hugging a baby manatee.
According to the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act, it is illegal to molest, harass, or disturb manatees. These marine mammals are extremely sensitive and endangered species. Federal laws also protect them.
The pictures were taken at Taylor Creek near Fort Pierce in southeast Florida. They show Ryan partially removing the baby manatee from the water and hugging it. Two other pictures show his two young daughters petting the animal and also sitting on it.
Ryan was released from the St. Lucie County Jail on $2,500 bond and told a local television that he had no idea that holding the animal was illegal and he meant no harm.
A FFWCC however stresses that the interaction of a wild manatee with a human could be very harmful.
He said, “An interaction that may seem harmless and innocent may ultimately have serious consequences for manatees and other wildlife. This was a young manatee which was likely still dependent on its mother for food and protection. Separating the two could have severe consequences for the calf.”
According to manatee biologist Thomas Reinert,
”The calf also appeared to be experiencing manatee cold-stress syndrome, a condition that can lead to death in extreme cases. Taking the calf out of the water may have worsened its situation.”
The present incident will hopefully ensure that others are more careful when around wild marine animals.