Wildlife officials are investigating an online video that shows a man doing a cannonball onto two manatees.
The video shows a man jumping on top of what appears to be a manatee and a young calf swimming near a dock in a residential area. A voice is heard saying, “Should I do it? Let's do it. Jump, jump, jump.”
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the video was shot more than a year and a half ago. The agency is leading a joint investigation with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and is looking into possible violations of the Endangered Species Act.
News of the investigation comes as another video of humans harassing manatees was taken by Tampa’s WFLA-TV. As the station’s news helicopter hovered over Siesta Key, two people were seen riding and touching manatees.
The station reported the couple were told to stop by a state Fish and Wildlife officials who saw the actions from a boat.
Anyone who violates the act's provision against harassing, harming, pursuing, hunting or killing a protected species can face up to $100,000 in fines, up to a year in prison, or both.
Manatees are protected by both state and federal laws.
“We will do everything we can to protect our endangered species, and we encourage people to respect these gentle giants,” said Tom MacKenzie, a spokesman for the federal wildlife service.
Lenny Salberg of the state's wildlife commission tells Florida Today that the video caught the attention of Florida officials on Monday when it was uploaded to YouTube. They traced it back to a video originally posted to Facebook more than a year ago.
Salberg said the video was filmed in Cocoa Beach and that two men in the video have been identified as Cocoa Beach residents. He declined to divulge more details about the video.
“It's sad,” Salberg said. “You could see they were targeting them. They were trying to lure (the manatees) in by spraying the water, and they were cannonballing right onto them.”
Salberg said it did not appear that either manatee in the video was injured, but he said the man's cannonball could have inflicted some trauma onto the marine mammals.
“It's no different than jumping on a human's back,” Salberg said.