Monk seals are incredibly endangered — and one was just killed in Molokai

Monk seals are incredibly endangered — and one was just killed in Molokai
Michelle Barbieri, NOAA veterinarian, asks the public for assistance regarding information about the monk seal killing. (Image: Hawaii News Now)

Moomomi, Molokai - Officials are asking for the public's help to track down a suspect or suspects in the killing of a monk seal on Molokai last month.

The female juvenile Hawaiian monk seal, identified as RJ42, was found dead on the west end of Kawaaloa Bay on May 31.

A post-mortem examination found that the seal's injuries were purposely inflicted. Because of the ongoing investigation, officials have not released the nature of the injuries.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration veterinarian Michelle Barbieri said it's believed to be the sixth monk seal killed by humans since 2009.

It's the third killed in Moomomi, on Molokai's northwestern shore.

Hawaiian monk seals are one of the most endangered marine mammals in the world, according to NOAA.

In 2017, there were close to 1,400 seals counted throughout Hawaii and the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

"The monk seals that are killed in this way, unfortunately, impact recovery of these species because they are potentially females that would have grown up to give birth to pups of their own someday," Barbieri said. "So not only do we lose the life of this particular individual, but we do unfortunately lose the future reproductive output of those individuals."

Barbieri encourages the public to contact NOAA anytime a monk seal is spotted so they can track their health.

Anyone with information about the investigation should call the NOAA enforcement hotline at 800-853-1964 or send an email to Reports can be made anonymously and a reward may be offered if information leads to an arrest.

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