Known in Hawaiian as ilio-holo-i-ka-uaua or na mea hulu, Hawaiian monk seals are one of the rarest marine mammals in the world. Part of the “true seal” family, Phocidae, they are one of only two remaining monk seal species; the other is the Mediterranean monk seal.
Hawaiian Monk seals spend two-thirds of their time at sea. They feed on fish, cephalopods and crustaceans off reefs surrounding the Hawaiian islands, but have also been found foraging deepwater coral beds, over 1000 feet deep. When on land, monk seals breed or bask in the sun. Sandy, protected beaches surrounded by shallow waters are preferred when pupping. Monk seals are often seen resting on beaches during the day.
These seals are among the most endangered seals in the world. Its populations are on the decline. As of 2010 it was estimated that only 1,100 individuals remain.
video courtesy Drew Wheeler – ScubaDrew Videoworks
Pūpūkea’s N-29 – Ku‘uipo
On Saturday, January 29, 2011 we had another monk seal effortlessly navigate the crashing waves and seek refuge on the sand at the waters edge. She bears the mark N29 on her backside. This is a bleach mark that was applied to seal ID# RI37 (tags: I37-left, I38-right). She is a 6-year old female that was born on Kaua‘i. Volunteers have nicknamed her Ku‘uipo (Ipo for short), which means “sweetheart” in Hawaiian. Her mom is R5AY, who shows up on the North shore of O‘ahu from time to time. In early April of last year, RI37 sustained a deep wound to her posterior, possibly from a boat propeller or shark bite. She has healed nicely though. Mahalo to Tracy Wurth with the Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program for this information.
To report Hawaiian monk seal sightings call 220-7802.