A 2-month old, female Hawaiian monk seal pup was recently found dead on Oahu’s North Shore, according to wildlife officials, with the circumstances surrounding her death indicating it was not of natural causes.
The seal, RL44, also known as Nanea, was discovered dead on the morning of Sept. 24. The case has been referred to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of Law Enforcement for investigation.
RL44 was born on July 19 at Paradise Cove at Ko Olina. NOAA Fisheries and volunteers from Hawaii Marine Animal Response monitored her during her 6-week nursing period. After she weaned, NOAA decided to relocate her to a remote location on the North Shore, where she would have the opportunity to interact with other young, wild monk seals, and be less likely to be disturbed by humans or become fixated on people.
The same was done for Rocky’s pup, Kaimana, in 2017, who was born at Kaimana Beach Park in Waikiki.
“Management decisions like translocating a seal are carefully weighed in a series of in-depth risk assessments,” said NOAA Fisheries in a blog post. “All decisions are ultimately made with seal and human safety as the primary concern.”
In addition, the state Division of Aquatic Resources performed a sweep of the area where she would be translocated, and removed line, nets, hooks and other debris from the area to reduce the threat of entanglement. The translocation went smoothly, according to officials. HMAR volunteers observed RL44 socializing and playing with other seals in the area.
“Her smooth transition to her new home following the translocation and our hopes for her future were shattered by this tragic loss,” said NOAA Fisheries.
Auntie Nettie Tiffany, kahu of Lanikuhonua, who named the monk seal, said she “brought exactly what she seemed: peace for our water and our reefs for a period of time, so [they] had time to heal.”
Earlier this summer, NOAA also reported the death of a yearling male Hawaiian monk seal, RK88, also known as Kuokala, after likely drowning in a lay gill net. He was found dead Aug. 21 at Camp Erdman at Kaena Point.
Officials said post-mortem test results confirmed that RK88 was healthy at the time of death and there was no evidence of underlying disease or other health concerns. Necropsy results supported drowning in a lay gill net as the cause of death.
Hawaiian monk seals are a critically endangered species protected by federal and state laws. Only an estimated 1,400 remain in the wild — about 1,100 in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and 300 in the main Hawaiian islands.
Anyone with information about RL44 should call NOAA Law Enforcement at 800-853-1964.