HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Infuriating video that’s making the rounds on social media has prompted an investigation by state and federal marine life authorities.
And now the man who posted the video is sharing his side of the story.
In the video posted on the social media Tik Tok, a man approaches a sleeping Hawaiian monk seal and appears to slap the animal on its backside. The song “Smack That” by Akon was overlaid to add to the comedy — but it’s no laughing matter.
The man who posted the video, who wants only to be identified as Eric, said the video was taken at a West Oahu beach during his visit with friends last month. He said, however, it was not him in the video.
After the resting monk seal is touched, it angrily chases after the man in the video. Hawaii News Now is unable to show the original video due to copyright and permission policies, but it has been reposted on other social media accounts.
In a phone interview Tuesday, Eric, who is from the East Coast, claimed slapping the seal was never their intention, and they didn’t know touching the animal was illegal.
“I was just filming the seal. I didn’t know what was going to happen or what not and then out of the blue, it actually happened. Instantly, we were like, honestly, that’s not right, we should have not done it,” Eric said. “It wasn’t right for sure.”
It was Eric’s friend — who he wants to keep anonymous — seen in the video. He says he immediately regretted his decision.
“As soon as he did it, he wasn’t proud of it. It’s not like, just because he got the hate and stuff. His intention wasn’t to slap it in the first place, his intention was that he just wanted to touch it,” Eric said.
“That was like his goal but the reason why it seemed like he slapped it, he ran off because he actually thought it was going to attack him as soon as he touched it,” he added.
Eric has also issued an apology on his Instagram account, which he temporarily took down because he said death threats and other harassing messages were among the backlash he received.
Authorities are investigating and have been in contact with the individuals involved. Eric and his friend are cooperating and say they will own up to their mistakes.
Monk seals are protected by law and harassing a monk seal is a class C felony punishable by time behind bars and fines, the DLNR said.
Anyone who may have witnessed the incident is asked to call the DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement, or NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement.
“We encourage people to report violations immediately. Far too often we learn about these cases after they’ve been posted to social media, which compounds the difficulty of gathering evidence and witness statements in real time,” DOCARE Chief Jason Redulla said.
When monk seals are resting on Hawaii’s beaches, NOAA guidelines suggest you stay about 50 feet away if a roped boundary has not yet been set up.