Hawaii is known as the extinction capital of the United States and is home to the native, endangered Hawaiian monk seal (Neomonachus schauinslandii). There’s only about 1,400 individuals left, and they are only found in Hawaii because they evolved here. Oahu is the most populous island on the main Hawaiian islands with almost 1 million people, and nearly 50 Hawaiian monk seals frequent the coastal waters to rest, forage, and dive.
Oahu’s community grows up knowing these individuals as part of their community, and are familiar with their markings, favorite places, family relationship, and injuries they have survived from.
One of the most notable Hawaiian monk seals, Honey Girl (RA5Y), recently passed away and was very well-known on Oahu, having been sighted frequently for nearly 20 years. She even survived partial surgical removal of her tongue after getting hooked by fishing line! Honey Girl was a mother who had at least 12 pups over the course of her life, an amazing contribution to this endangered population. Pups are so important to endangered species, especially female ones.
Besides accidental hooking, other threats to Hawaiian monk seals are illegal lay nets, a disease spread by feral cats called toxoplasmosis, off leash pets, and human-caused trauma.
You can be part of supporting this native species by viewing them from a respectful distance, always keeping your cats indoors, keeping your dogs on a leash, learning where your seafood comes from, disposing of rubbish so it never becomes marine debris, voting, and using less plastic.
Author: Carissa Cabrera