Senseless and sickening.
That’s about the the only way to describe Tuesday’s news that a female monk seal pup was found bludgeoned to death along a rocky beach in Anahola.
To think that this innocent animal, with the help of her mother, managed to survive a dog attack at one month of age only to have its head bashed in by someone is shocking. Who could, and would, do such a thing? While we don’t know the identity of whoever did this, we know this much about them: This person is a coward. This person has no respect for anyone or anything. This person is gutless and weak. Really, imagine what it would take for someone to walk up to a monk seal pup on a beach, essentially defenseless, with such hatred and fury that they would kill it. We assume this person acted alone — if there are more than one of this sort on Kauai, we’re in trouble.
Too bad, but this person was smart enough to make sure no one was around when they walked up to the resting monk seal and killed it. Sadly, monk seals are easy targets. And just as sadly, it’s not the first time something like this has happened, though we hope it’s the last.
It is the ninth suspicious monk seal death in Hawaii since 2009. There have been five since 2011 — two on Molokai and three on Kauai. In all five of the most recent cases, including Sunday’s, necropsy indicated the animals did not die of natural causes. Four deaths were reported as significant trauma to the skull, while one was the result of a gunshot wound.
The most recent suspicious monk seal death occurred in April of 2012 on Kauai, when a 3-year-old male was discovered on a rocky part of the island’s northeastern shore. That investigation is still open.
In April of 2009, 78-year-old Charles Vidinha fatally shot a pregnant monk seal at Pilaa Beach, on Kauai’s North Shore. He pleaded guilty in September of that year and was sentenced to 90 days in jail and ordered to pay a $25 fine.
While there are those who insist monk seals don’t belong here, we believe William Aila, chair of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, has it right when he says: “Seals, Hawaiian monk seals, have a place in Hawaii. They are part of the ecosystem, contrary to the misinformation that people are putting out there.”
Scientific evidence shows that seals are endemic to the Hawaiian Archipelago and predate the presence of native Hawaiians. Their archeological remains have been discovered in middens dating as far back as the 15th century. And references to the animals are found in ancient Hawaiian chants.
There are few of these creatures left. The Hawaiian monk seal is one of the rarest marine mammals in the world. The majority, about 900, reside in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. A smaller but growing population of about 200 seals inhabit the main Hawaiian Islands.
Kauai is a great island. Too great to allow this trend, this violence against monk seals, to continue. It’s disturbing and must end. We can only hope the $10,000 reward being offered leads to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible.