Federal wildlife officials now believe that an endangered Hawaiian monk seal found dead a few months ago on Oahu was an intentional killing.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Office of Law Enforcement is offering a reward of up to $5,000 for information that leads to a successful prosecution of those responsible.
Monk seal RQ76, known to many as Malama, was reported by a member of the public to be dead on March 12 at Ohikilolo, a beach in West Oahu.
NOAA conducted a post-mortem investigation and today reported the cause of Malama’s death as blunt force trauma.
After consultation with national experts in marine mammal radiology and forensics, and analysis by multiple experts, NOAA said data leads to the conclusion that Malama’s death was an intentional killing.
The female seal was originally rescued as a malnourished pup after she was weaned.
She was taken to The Marine Mammal Center’s Ke Kai Ola, a hospital for monk seals, in Kailua-Kona so she could get to a healthy weight. After several months of rehabilitation, she was released back into the wild in January of this year.
Volunteers from NOAA’s nonprofit partner, Hawaii Marine Animal Response, reported seeing her in good body condition and doing well before this tragic incident.
“Malama’s death hits us and our community particularly hard — especially given all the support, care, and monitoring provided to her by our NOAA team, The Center, HMAR, U.S. Coast Guard, and members of the Oahu community,” said NOAA in a blog post.
With only about 1,500 left in the wild, Hawaiian monk seals are one of the most endangered seal species in the world and are protected by state and federal laws.
Anyone with information should contact the NOAA Enforcement hotline at 800-853-1964.