Federal officials are reminding the public to keep a good distance from a female monk seal that has hauled out at a Waikiki Beach for the fourth day on Wednesday.
The seal, identified as 8-year-old Kaiwi, has given birth to two pups previously in South or East Oahu, which are areas that she frequents.
While National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration officials do not believe Kaiwi, based on appearances, is pregnant this time, there is still a possibility that she is.
“This would be the time of year that she would give birth based on her previous puppings,” said NOAA marine mammal response coordinator Dave Schofield. “However, she’s not as large as we would expect to see her if she was giving birth at the beginning of May. Based on appearances, we’re feeling that she’s not pregnant.”
Still, since Hawaiian monk seals, an endangered species protected by both state and federal laws, typically forage at night and haul up to rest during the day, NOAA is reminding the public in a high traffic area such as Waikiki to give Kaiwi some space.
“There’s a lot going on in Waikiki, so any time a seal hauls up in a high human use area, we ask people to use precaution to keep the noise level to a minimum and to give a seal some space,” said Schofield.
NOAA asks that people not try to get a close-up selfie with the monk seal, and to stay behind protective borders that have been set up at a safe distance.
Volunteers from Hawaii Marine Animal Response, a non-profit that works with NOAA, have already set up a border around Kaiwi and are keeping an eye on her safety from sunup to sundown.
While NOAA officials are not 100% sure if Kaiwi is expecting or not, they hope that if she is, she will give birth in a more remote location.
In 2017, Rocky the monk seal created a stir, giving birth to a pup at crowded Kaimana Beach in Waikiki. The pup kept swimming into the Natatorium nearby, and was eventually translocated after weaning to a more remote location away from crowds. Last year, NOAA officials breathed a sigh of relief when Rocky returned to her usual pupping location on Kauai to give birth to her pup.
“We’re all saying prayers,” said Schofield. “We want monk seals to give birth as much as possible but not in places where there’s lots of people.”