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$30,000 in rewards offered for clues on who killed monk seals

By Dan Nakaso

LAST UPDATED: 12:44 p.m. HST, Jan 11, 2012

Rewards of up to $30,000, the largest of its kind in Hawaii, are being offered for confidential tips that lead to the arrest and conviction of whoever killed three critically endangered Hawaiian monk seals on Molokai and Kauai since November.

Tips on each killing come with individual $10,000 rewards, for a total of $30,000 for all three cases, said Inga Gibson, Hawaii's state director for the Humane Society of the United States.

Last week, William Aila Jr., chairman of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, announced that a juvenile, male monk seal was found killed on Kauai on Jan. 2 following two similar cases on Molokai.

The animals was found with a foreign object in its skull and a necropsy was performed on Kauai, Aila said last week.

Since then, Aila said, the case generated only two or three calls, Aila said today.

A third monk seal also was found dead on Molokai and remains under suspicion as an intentional killing, pending the results of a necropsy.

Today, Aila and Gibson announced a new toll-free, confidential hotline for tips that can lead to the $10,000 and $30,000 rewards — 1-855-DLNR-TIP.

The Humane Society of the United States, the Conservation Council for Hawai'i, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Marine Conservation Institute each have pledged $2,500 rewards for tips that lead to the arrests or convictions in each of the three cases.

An anonymous donor from Hawaii also has pledged to match the contributions with $15,000, Aila said.

"The intentional killing of any monk seals is not only illegal, it is inexcusable environmentally and culturally," Aila said today.

Hawaiian monk seals live only in Hawaii. There are an estimated 1,100 to 1,200 monk seals thought to exist in the islands, but only 200 live in the main Hawaiian islands.

The majority live in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands, where their numbers are plummeting at an estimated rate of 7 percent per year, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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