$50,000 offered for info on monk seal deaths

HONOLULU — A total of $50,000 is being offered for information about the killings of five Hawaiian monk seals, including the February death of a 15-year old female known as R4DP on Kauai.

“I’d like for anyone with information to come forward,” said Robert Farrell, enforcement chief for the state Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement, at a Friday DLNR news conference.

He added: “The eyes and ears of the public are the best source of information.”

These deaths are among 11 reported monk seal killings since 2009 that remain open and unsolved.

In 2011, $10,000 rewards for information leading to the arrest and conviction of people involved in the killing of Hawaiian monk seals started being offered by The Humane Society of the United States, the Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust, Conservation Council for Hawaii and the Center for Biological Diversity.

On Feb 23, another seal’s death was added to the list of investigations, bringing the reward total to $50,000.

She was found dead on a beach near Eleele and in early March, officers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of Law Enforcement, and DLNR DOCARE announced the seal had injuries “inconsistent with any natural cause of death associated with wild monk seals.”

“We have reason to suspect people or persons were responsible (for the seals death),” Angela Amlin, the Hawaiian monk seal recovery coordinator for NOAA’s Pacific Islands Regional Office said at the Friday news conference.

Details on specific injuries have yet to be released, and Amlin said it could take about four weeks for lab results to come back, bringing with them “a more complete picture” of what happened to the seal.

“We are still waiting for final lab results but everything indicates that R4DP was in good health and did not have any diseases.” Farrell said in a news release sent to TGI. “These may be serious crimes with significant fines and jail time punishable under both federal and state laws.”

In 2010, the state made it a class C felony to harm, injure or harass a Hawaiian monk seal and the native seals, which number at about 1,400 in the wild, are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act.

Fines for violating these laws can reach up to $50,000, along with jail time.

R4DP was tagged as a young seal on Kauai in the summer of 2008 and was flown to Oahu 10 days later because scientists suspected she’d swallowed a hook. X-rays gave her a clean bill of health and she was released after being returned to Kauai.

Her demise is the first reported suspicious death of a monk seal since 2014, when one seal was killed on Kauai and one seal died on Oahu. There was one conviction of a man killing a monk seal on Kauai in 2009.

“We are deeply indebted to The Humane Society of the United States, the Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust, Conservation Council for Hawaii and the Center for Biological Diversity, which once again have stepped forward to try and help solve the senseless and outrageous killings of one of Hawaii’s iconic, naturally and culturally important marine mammals,” DLNR Chair Suzanne Case said.

The rewards haven’t turned up any information, but Case said the department is “confident that there are people out there that know about these acts.”

Anyone with information about these deaths should call the NOAA Office of Law Enforcement hotline at 1-800-853-1964 or the statewide DOCARE hotline at 1-855-DLNR-TIP or 643-DLNR (3567).

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