New Plan Helps Hawaiian Monk Seals

WAIKIKI (KHNL) -- Hawaiian monk seals are synonymous with our ocean life, but their numbers are dwindling. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are doing to help further protect the animals.

This Hawaiian monk seal gets a 360 degree view of its fans at the Waikiki Aquarium. Reed Jaworski came all the way from New York to see it. He loves its graceful nature.

"The way they spin, stand up, basically everything about them," said the nine-year-old from Syracuse, New York.

But these endangered animals are becoming even more rare.

"In the wild now, there are probably down to only about 1,200 animals which makes them one of the most critically endangered mammal species in the world," said Andrew Rossiter, director of the Waikiki Aquarium.

And their population is decreasing at about four percent every year. If this trend continues, there could be less than a thousand monk seals by 2010.

Because their numbers are going down, Hawaiian monk seals will now be better protected under a new program called the Hawaiian Monk Seal Recovery Plan.

The plan includes focusing on saving breeding female monk seals, so that the population continues to grow. Scientists also plan to minimize threats to these animals, and reduce the chance of infectious diseases.

"In terms of Hawaii, I think they're more of a flagship animal, a real emblem of what needs to be done here about how special the fauna of Hawaii is," said Rossiter.

And very special to fans young and old.

"I think they're really beautiful," said Jaworski. "And I think we should try to save them all so everyone can see their beautifulness."

Preserving an endangered species so future generations can appreciate their beauty.

NOAA also plans to start a captive care program for female monk seals, to ensure they survive and give birth to future generations.