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Rocky the monk seal births pup at Sand Island beach

                                Hawaiian monk seal Rocky, RH58, has given birth to a pup at Sand Island.
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Hawaiian monk seal Rocky, RH58, has given birth to a pup at Sand Island.

Hawaiian monk seal Rocky gave birth to a pup overnight, and is resting with it at Sand Island State Recreation area, according to officials.

This is the first recorded monk seal birth at Sand Island, according to the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources. It is Rocky’s 15th pup.

State and federal officials, along with the nonprofit Hawaii Marine Animal Rescue are working together to keep people away from the mom-and-pup pair as they nurse in the next five to seven weeks.

“It was possible Rocky would pup at Kaimana Beach, where her two previous Oahu pups were born,” said DLNR in a news release. “While she’d recently been spotted swimming offshore near Sand Island, it was a bit of a surprise she hauled out there, as the first seal on record to give birth at the popular park.”

The cove where the seals are resting has been fenced off, and volunteers will be on hand to educate park users about monk seal behaviors and the need to give them a wide berth, DLNR said.

State Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement officers are also keeping a watchful eye on Rocky and her pup.

“On weekends and holidays in particular, Sand Island SRA is heavily used,” said Curt Cottrell, administrator of the DLNR Division of State Parks, in a statement. “We strongly request that people stay outside of the cordons and follow directions from HMAR representatives to keep a safe and respectful distance from the mother and seal pup.”

Monk seal experts are particularly concerned about the number of off-leash dogs and feral cats at Sand Island. Dogs have been known to attack resting monk seals, and cats are linked with the spread of toxoplasmosis, officials said.

“We are asking people to stop feeding cats and to leave your dogs at home – dogs are not allowed at Sand Island,” said Cottrell.

Rocky made headlines when she gave birth to a pup at Kaimana Beach in Waikiki in 2017, which was the first known monk seal birth there at the time.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recommends maintaining a distance of 150 feet from mom-and-pup pairs both on land in water, and warns that mother seals can be very protective.

Hawaiian monk seals are among the most endangered seals in the world, with an estimated population of 1,600 left in the wild. The seals are protected by both state and federal laws.

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