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Wildlife officials confirm dead monk seal at Mokuleia was known as Benny

  • COURTESY NOAA FISHERIES
                                Hawaiian monk seal, RE74, also known as “Benny,” was born on Kauai in 2002. He later became a regular on Oahu and was commonly sighted at a variety of locations ranging from Honolulu to the North Shore. NOAA confirmed Wednesday that Benny was found dead at Mokuleia.

    COURTESY NOAA FISHERIES

    Hawaiian monk seal, RE74, also known as “Benny,” was born on Kauai in 2002. He later became a regular on Oahu and was commonly sighted at a variety of locations ranging from Honolulu to the North Shore. NOAA confirmed Wednesday that Benny was found dead at Mokuleia.

  • COURTESY NOAA FISHERIES
                                Hawaiian monk seal RE74, also known as “Benny,” takes a nap on the beach.

    COURTESY NOAA FISHERIES

    Hawaiian monk seal RE74, also known as “Benny,” takes a nap on the beach.

Federal wildlife officials have confirmed a dead monk seal found in Mokuleia on Oahu’s North Shore was known to many around the isles as “Benny.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Wednesday announced that the dead seal, reported on June 17, was RE74, or Benny. While NOAA uses an alphanumeric to tag and identify seals, volunteers from the community often nickname seals they see on a regular basis.

“RE74 was beloved by many in the community and held a special place in our hearts as we observed him throughout the years,” said NOAA in a blog post. “RE74 had a long history with NOAA Fisheries and our partners working on Hawaiian monk seal conservation.”

NOAA said Benny was born on Kauai in August 2002, and that he spent the first few years of his life there before becoming a regular on Oahu in 2005.

He was commonly sighted at various sites all around Oahu, including Kaena Point, Mokuleia, Turtle Bay, Ewa Beach, Nanakuli, Pokai Bay, Manana Island and Ala Moana.

NOAA helped save Benny twice — by performing life-saving surgeries to remove fish hooks he accidentally swallowed two times – once in 2014 and again in 2016. NOAA believes he was hooked at least nine times during his lifetime.

By collecting samples from Benny, and data from a temporary satellite tag he wore shortly after one of the fish hook surgeries, NOAA was able to gain scientific knowledge on endangered Hawaiian monk seals.

NOAA said he was the first Hawaiian monk seal whose genome was sequenced. He was also one of the first seals in the main Hawaiian islands to be vaccinated against morbillivirus.

A post-mortem exam has been conducted, NOAA said, but scientists were unable to determine a clear cause of death. NOAA is still awaiting results of a tissue sample analysis.

Hawaiian monk seals are an endangered species protected by state and federal laws.

NOAA encourages the public to keep a respectful distance from the seals, and to report seal sightings and marine animals in distress to its hotline at 888-256-9840.

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