Every day is ripe with new lessons gleaned from other people’s unfortunate mistakes. Thankfully, the rest of us don’t have to learn this one the hard way. Here, dear friends, is the public service announcement for today: do not ride the manatees in Florida. The locals don’t like it. The animals don’t like it. And it’s pretty obvious the cops don’t like it either, because they have arrested 52-year-old Ana Gloria Garcia-Gutierrez—at her job, no less—after someone photographed her barebacking the endangered sea mammal at a park back in September.
Pictures (eh-hem) surfaced of Garcia-Gutierrez in shorts, a bikini top, and a manatee boogie board at Fort Desoto Park, where she’d been observed and eventually ratted out by other park goers for touching, then mounting the great beast. Just how does one hitch their person to the back of a creature that can grow up to 13 feet long and weigh some 1,300 pounds? That’s for her to know and us to baffle over. I’m at the beach dodging pesky little aquatic critters and she’s over there straddling sumo-sized water mammals, but whatever.
Homegirl won’t be leading any manatee riding lessons, though, mainly because 1) she’s been arrested for the indiscretion and 2) we don’t want any more curious, adventurous folks breaking what apparently is a fervently upheld law via The Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act, which protects the endangered animals and clearly states: “It is unlawful for any person at any time, by any means, or in any manner intentionally or negligently to annoy, molest, harass, or disturb or attempt to molest, harass, or disturb any manatee.” Take that.
The victim has yet to come forward to complain that he was annoyed, molested, harassed, or disturbed, but Garcia-Gutierrez nonetheless found herself in the clink with hardened criminals up against charges like armed robbery and assault and prostitution and murder. Manatee-riding just doesn’t have that same sinister sound when Big Shirley and her league of brutish toughs come a-sniffin’ for a fight. Luckily, Garcia-Gutierrez was booked into the Pinellas County Jail and released after posting $1,500 bond.
She explained she’s new to the area and didn’t realize manatee rodeo was so heavily frowned upon. In comparison, I guess, to where she lived before. But I bet she learned her lesson now.
Ride the back of a bike, the back of a horse, heck the back of a man lubed up with bacon grease and hot candle wax, but what you won’t do is ride the back of a manatee and stay on the right side of the law. Don’t even think about it.
Do you think this whole case is a bit ridiculous or should she be punished?