WAILUKU >> Officials are investigating the third death of an endangered Hawaiian monk seal on Molokai in recent weeks.
The 17-month-old male was discovered Wednesday on the western side of the island, not far from where two other monk seals were found dead since mid-November.
Jeff Walters, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Hawaiian monk seal recovery coordinator, told The Maui News (http://bit.ly/ruadqn) a necropsy on the seal was inconclusive. Additional medical samples were being sent for analysis, he said.
“I don’t think we could call it a suspicious death, but we are going to add it to the other deaths in terms of the investigation,” Walters said. “Considering the fact that the death occurred in a somewhat similar location and around the same time, it’s an extra cause for concern. Law enforcement people are going to be investigating this death as well.”
The first seal was found dead last month. The second was found last week.
Officials couldn’t rule out foul play after seeing necropsy results for these two seals, so NOAA is calling their deaths suspicious.
All three animals were born at Kalaupapa, the isolated peninsula on Molokai’s northern coast.
Hawaiian monk seals are critically endangered. There are only about 1,100 left in the world, and the population is declining 4 percent a year.
It’s a federal and state crime to kill or harm a Hawaiian monk seal.
Last year, the state increased the penalties for hurting one of the mammals after three of them were found killed on Kauai and Molokai.
It is now a felony to harm monk seals under Hawaii law. Those found guilty face up to $50,000 in fines and five years in prison.
Authorities are asking anyone with information about the deaths is asked to call NOAA at 1-800-853-1964 or the state Department of Land and Natural Resources at 808-873-3990.