Hawaiian Monk Seal
The Hawaiian monk seal is an endangered species of earless seal in the Phocidae family that is endemic to the Hawaiian Islands. They are solitary animals, like some monks.
While most seals make their homes in colder climates, Hawaiian monk seals prefer the warm, sandy beaches of the northwestern Hawaiian Islands. photographed from Secret beach at the Ko Olina Resort, Waianae Coast, Oahu, Hawaii
Today, Hawaiian monk seals are endangered &, although many protection efforts are in place, their numbers are believed to have fallen more than ten percent per year since 1989. Photographed from Secret beach at the Ko Olina Resort, Waianae Coast, Oahu, Hawaii
things about the Hawaiian monk seal you need to know
They have many names
Although referred to in English as the Hawaiian monk seal for its solitary nature and the folds on its neck that resemble a monk’s cowl, there are a few different names in Hawaiian for our blubbery buddies. Ilioholokauaua (dog running in rough seas) is the name most often associated with the mammal, however other names include na mea hulu (the furry one) and iliokai (seadog).
You won’t find them anywhere else in the world
Archaeological and historical data shows that the Hawaiian monk seal has inhabited the Hawaiian Islands for the past several hundred years. However, evidence suggests that they may have come here 3.6 to 11.6 million years ago through the Central American Seaway, a once existing channel between North America and South America. Along with the hoary bat, they’re one of the two mammal species endemic to Hawaii, meaning that they are only found in the Hawaiian archipelago and nowhere else in the world.
There’s only one other monk seal species
Part of an exclusive club, Hawaiian monk seals are one of the only two remaining monk seal species left on earth. Originally a trio, the Caribbean monk seal is now considered extinct with the last seal being seen in 1952, making the Hawaiian monk seal the only earless seal species to live in a tropical climate. The only other monk seal species, the Mediterranean monk seal, is deemed critically endangered with less than 500 individuals remaining.
Population numbers are slowly increasing
Don’t let their cool demeanor and adorable offspring fool you, Hawaiian monk seals are in a perilous situation. Currently an endangered species on the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species, the remaining population is estimated at 1,272. However, things are looking up for Hawaii’s state mammal: There’s been an increase of pups being born in the main Hawaiian Islands such as Oahu, Kauai and Molokai.
Give them some space
With an increase in Hawaiian monk seal population in the main Hawaiian Islands, it’s a good idea to remember they need their space. The National Oceanic Atmospheric Association (NOAA) recommends keeping a distance of 150 feet, allowing the seal to remain undisturbed. Mother seals can be extremely protective of their pups, so for the safety of the seal and yourself, give the pair ample space and leash any of your pets.