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Endangered Monk Seal Pup Born in Hawaii. Will Humans Give It Space?

A slew of monk seal births in the Hawaiian Islands is exciting for the conservation community, but this also creates challenges for managing areas where humans and wildlife overlap. Yesterday, the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) confirmed a new milestone, a Hawaiian monk seal pup born on Mokulua Nui to a monk seal that was also born on Mokulua Nui.

Hawaiian monk seals are an endangered species, with only around 1,600 individuals currently living in the wild. Having a second-generation monk seal pup born on Mokulua Nui, an offshore islet and a state wildlife sanctuary, is a great sign for the population. However, the islet is also a popular spot for kayakers, creating some friction for wildlife managers.

“The births of 11 monks seals on Oʻahu this year have created some unique challenges in protecting both seals and people,” says the DLNR. “With births in high visibility areas like Kaimana Beach in Waikīkī on May 1 and just last week on a beach at Sand Island State Recreation Area, DLNR, NOAA, and Hawai‘i Marine Animal Rescue (HMAR) initiated collaborative plans to keep moms, pups, and curious people separated and safe.”

DLNR further says Mokulua Nui is “particularly challenging.” On Friday, the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW) suspended all Mokulua Islet Commercial Landing Permits in an effort to keep people away from the endangered monk seal pups.

Protecting Wildlife vs. Protecting Tourism

For companies entering their busy season that rely on tourist dollars and kayaking trips to these islands, this isn’t great news.

DOFAW Administrator David Smith said: “We are mindful and empathetic to the impact this has on kayak companies and recreators at the beginning of the busy summer tourist season. However, having seals in very close proximity to people can create safety issues for both people and animals. We appreciate everyone’s patience, while this mother seal nurses her pup and prepares it to wean in five to seven weeks.”

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