Hawaiian Monk Seals

(PC: Iris Takahashi)

General Info:

  • The Monk Seal’s Hawaiian name is llio-holo-i-ka-uauja, which translates to “dog running in the rough seas.”
  • Hawaiian Monk Seals live in the Hawaiian islands and nowhere  else!
  • The Hawaiian Monk Seal is Hawaii’s official state mammal.
  • Monk Seals can live to 25-30 years.
  • Monk Seals are not like their cousins sea lions or elephant seals in that they do not live in colonies.
  • Adult Monk Seals are about 6-7 feet in length and weigh about 400-600 pounds.

Current Statistics:

  • There are currently about 1400 Hawaiian Monk Seals: 1100 in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and 300 in the main Hawaiian Islands.  This makes the Hawaiian monk seals one of the most endangered animal species in the world.
    • There are two other monk seal species in addition to the Hawaiian Monk Seal: the Caribbean Monk Seal and the Mediterranean Monk Seal.
    • The Caribbean Monk Seal is extinct – the last one was seen in 1952.
    • The Mediterranean Monk Seal is critically endangered — there are less than 500 individuals remaining.
  • It is estimated that in the 1950s there were about 3000 Hawaiian Monk Seals, meaning today the seals are only at about 1/3 of their historic estimates.
  • Some of the biggest threats to the Hawaiian Monk Seals are entanglement in marine debris, shoreline habitat lossdisease from other species (for example, toxoplasmosis from feral cats), and, shockingly intentional killing.
  • Hawaiian Monk Seals have one of the highest documented entanglement of any seal/sea lion/walrus (pinniped) species.  General marine debrisplastic pollutionand fishing gear (legal and illegal) constantly affect habitat.  Despite NOAA and its partners removing over 700 metric tons of marine debris fro the Hawaiian islands and surrounding areas since 1996, accumulation rates remain constant.
  • Hawaiian Monk Seals have been intentionally killed by humans likely because the seals were seen as a threat that were “stealing” fish.

Sources:  https://www.fpir.noaa.gov/PRD/prd_hms_learn_about.html; http://h-mar.org/you-can-help-save-endangered-marine-animals/