Kalaupapa National Historical Park on Molokai welcomed its first Hawaiian monk seal pup of the season last week.
The pup was born to monk seal RG18, who herself was born at Kalaupapa in 2015, according to park officials.
Officials made the announcement via Facebook earlier this month, bringing positive news after a spate of monk seal deaths reported earlier this year.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that in late January, volunteers from Hawaii Marine Animal Response found a dead monk seal near Laau Point, Molokai.
Both HMAR and wildlife officials examined the mummified carcass and respectfully buried it in a spot near where the seal was found.
Just a few days later, on Feb. 2, NOAA and state officials responded to another deceased adult monk seal on Molokai’s south shore. Due to heavy rains and difficult terrain, they were unable to retrieve or bury the carcass and left it in place to decompose naturally.
A member of the community performed Hawaiian cultural protocols.
Since both carcasses were severely decomposed, officials said they had a limited ability to examine them, and do not know what caused the seals’ deaths.
NOAA and the National Park Service remind the public to give monk seal moms and pups plenty of space and avoid swimming if they are present on a beach. HMAR recommends staying at least 150 feet away from moms and pups.
The Hawaiian monk seal is a critically endangered species protected by both state and federal laws. Today, only about 1,400 seals remain in the wild, with roughly 1,100 residing in the Northwestern Hawaii islands.
Anyone with information about the deceased monk seals on Molokai, or who needs to report marine mammals in distress, should call NOAA Marine Wildlife hotline at 888-256-9840.