Monk seal pup found dead

LIHUE — A two-week old Hawaiian monk seal pup was found dead Tuesday morning on Kauai from an apparent dog attack, an official with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said.

In addition to the fatality, three other endangered seals — two mothers and a second pup — were also attacked but suffered non-life-threatening injuries, according to Jamie Thomton, the Kauai marine mammal response program coordinator for NOAA Fisheries.

The pup that died was born July 16 to RK28, a local female that NOAA officials were not tracking as pregnant. It was one of five healthy Kauai pups born on remote North Shore beaches this season.

Thomton said Tuesday’s incident is hard to swallow considering his team was in the middle of celebrating 2014 as having the highest number of newborns in several years. In comparison, two were born on Kauai in 2013 and four the year before.

Thomton declined to elaborate on the attacks. 

The Hawaiian monk seal is one of the rarest marine mammals in the world. The majority, about 900, reside in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, part of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument. A smaller but growing population of about 200 seals inhabit the main Hawaiian Islands.

The Hawaiian monk seal is one of only two remaining monk seal species. The Mediterranean monk seal is also critically endangered, with a population of about 500. The Caribbean monk seal is extinct, last seen in 1952.

NOAA’s goal for Hawaiian monk seals is to reach a population of 3,400 individuals — including 500 in the MHI — and maintain them for 20 years, before they could be removed from Endangered Species Act protection.

The ancient Hawaiian name for this critically endangered animal is “llio holo I ka uaua,” meaning “dog that runs in rough water,” according to NOAA’s website.

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Chris D’Angelo, environment writer, can be reached at 245-0441 or cdangelo@thegardenisland.com.

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