Hawaiian Monk Seals: A Rare Morning Encounter

I have a personal rule of thumb that keeps me up and moving everyday.  If J.O has to work, then I have to work out: i.e run, hike, walk, lift, whatever…but typically, I run.  Now, to make my routine more interesting, since we have been in Hawaii, after my roughly 5 mile run, I walk a 1.3 mile stretch back along the beach.

It’s one of my favorite times of the day.  I watch men spear fish and surf, I’ve witnessed hump back whales blow and breach, I’ve come across massive sea turtles basking on the beach (read more about them by clicking HERE), I find sea glass and shells, my feet get a refreshing bath in the ocean and I usually get a pretty awesome view of the sun rising (I work out in the morning before my brain figures out what I’m doing).  It truly is a magical part of my day.

This morning was an exceptional time on the beach because in my final 100 yards of beach walking, I came across a very rare Hawaiian monk seal sunning himself.  Like my first encounter with the sea turtles, I was instantly worried that he was hurt…or beached!  I kept my distance, as I heard they can be curious and at times aggressive if they feel threatened, but soon came to realize he (or she) was simply lovely.  Still keeping my distance, I was able to get a few pictures.  I would take a few steps closer here and there but when the beauty would snort at me, I backed off, giving it it’s space.

Another woman came over to admire the animal with me and we got to talking about what an amazing sight this was.  She informed me that in the 10 years she had lived here, she had only ever seen three seals on our beach. You may not know, but the Hawaiian Monk Seal is endangered: roughly only 1100 are left in existence. Yes, only 1100.  They are native to Hawaii and are only found here and on Johnston Atol.  This truly was a special sight.

I sat and watched the creature for about 20 minuets while  it moved around on the beach, soaked in the warm sun and at one point buried it’s head in the sand (like he was shy of all the people taking pictures of him!).  These guys do not travel in groups, but simply on their own and they are obviously prey for sharks, which we think s/he may have been running away from.  S/he was very healthy looking! Nice and plump and no scars on its skin.

It was an experience I’ll never forget.  I only wish that J.O could have been with me to witness it.   We both have a soft place in our heart for seals (they kind of look like basset hounds…don’t you think?).  Below are some of the pictures I took, a video and more facts on the Hawaiian Monk Seal.  Enjoy!

    • The biggest threats to Hawaiian monk seals are entanglement, food limitation, disease, shark bites, and climate change.
    • The current population of Monk Seals is about 1100 animals.
    • In comparison to other marine mammals, the Hawaiian monk seal has a lower metabolic rate, meaning that it will eat less fish over the course of its lifetime.
    • Monk seals can dive as deep as 1500ft but generally average about 200 feet.
    • Monk seals are predicted to consume between 5.8 and 12.9% of their body mass in food each day.
    • Monk seals live between 25 and 30 years.
    • Monk seals are the oldest of all the true seals on the planet in terms of their evolutionary history. Current research indicates that they have been present on the Hawaiian Islands for several million years!
    • The Caribbean monk seal, a close cousin of the Hawaiian monk seal, went extinct in 1952. The Mediterranean monk seal is also critically endangered with only about 500 individuals left in the wild

* cited from http://www.savemonkseals.ucsc.edu/fast-facts-about-monk-seals

 

Watch the video of the seal by clicking: monk seal

 

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