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Aggressive Hawaiian monk seal escapes lethal fate

LIHUE >> An aggressive Hawaiian monk seal that officials planned to euthanize to protect pups is nowhere to be found.

A federal official spent a week looking for the animal at Kure Atoll in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, The Garden Island newspaper reported today.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association recently announced it would euthanize one, possibly two, adult males at the atoll to protect the critically endangered species. Those males were attacking other seals and holding pups and juveniles under water in an attempt to drown them.

The missing seal, KE18, attacked other seals last year and was more aggressive this year, said Charles Littnan, head of NOAA’s Hawaiian monk seal research program. “The last two days we couldn’t find him at all so it is possible that had gone out to sea to forage,” he said.

Officials will review options for dealing with the aggressive seal next year.

Moving the seals was eliminated as an option this time because doing so would just give the seals an opportunity to attack pups in their new location. Officials searched for an aquarium or research facility to take them in, but none was available. 

The crew who went to Kure Atoll undertook the mission “sadly and with great regret,” Littnan said. 

Tim Robinson, program coordinator at the Hawaiian Monk Seal Watch Program said it’s unpleasant to euthanize any endangered animal, but his group, made up of Kauai volunteers, supports NOAA’s decision. “So the trade-off here is that by getting rid of these two guys they’re letting the young live,” he said.

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