HONOLULU — A 19-year-old Eleele man was arrested Thursday by authorities in connection with the beating of a 17-year old pregnant monk seal.
Shylo Akuna was picked up by Department of Land and Natural Resources DOCARE and NOAA Office of Law Enforcement special agents around 2:30 p.m., just two days after a video showing a man harassing a well-known Kauai monk seal named RK30 began circulating the internet.
That video, and the public outrage that followed, lead to officers to making a quick arrest, said DOCARE Chief Thomas Friel in a press conference Thursday.
“Several people identified the suspect (in the video),” Friel said.
DLNR Chair Suzanne Case thanked eyewitnesses and the people who provided tips.
“We’re very gratified that so many people care so much about Hawaiian monk seals and other endangered and threatened creatures,” she said. “I think the message is very clear: harming monk seals is not okay. We’re not going to tolerate it. The public won’t tolerate it.”
According to Friel, Akuna has had “some brushes with the law.”
During the alleged incident, alcohol was involved, Friel added.
He thanked the many agencies that helped in the capture of Akuna.
“Thanks to the joint efforts of our Kauai branch officers, special agents from the NOAA Office of Law Enforcement, Kauai Police Department, and Hawaii State Sheriffs we were able to investigate this crime, make an arrest, and bring this part of the case to a quick conclusion,” he said.
There have been incidents with people attacking or harassing seals in the past, but none have ever been concluded this quickly, Friel said.
Akuna is being held at the Kauai Police Department cellblock, pending further disposition on suspicion “taking a monk seal.”
That includes harassing, harming, pursuing, hunting, shooting, wounding, killing, trapping, capturing or collecting an endangered or threatened aquatic species or terrestrial wildlife.
If Akuna is convicted of the class C felony, he can face one to five years in prison and may have to pay a fine up to $50,000.