Authorities seek suspect after young monk seal found beaten on Kauai

Authorities seek suspect after young monk seal found beaten on Kauai
William Aila, Jr.
William Aila, Jr.

ANAHOLA, KAUAI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Authorities are investigating the killing of a Hawaiian monk seal pup on Kauai. The young female seal (RF58) was found bludgeoned to death at a beach in Anahola on Sunday, according to Department of Land and Natural Resources officials.

Shortly after her birth five months ago, the seal survived a dog attack that killed another pup. Wildlife experts said she was seen behaving normally, less than 24 hours before beach-goers discovered her body.

"It is definitely not pono to bash the head of a baby monk seal," said William Aila, Jr., DLNR chairperson.

The Garden Island newspaper is putting up a $10,000 reward for any information leading to arrests. The award matches a $10,000 award offered by the Humane Society of the United States, Conservation Council of Hawaii, Center for Biological Diversity and the Monk Seal Foundation.

"Anyone who would kill a defenseless animal is a potential threat to the community so we really need the community to step up and share any information," said Inga Gibson, Hawaii state director for The Humane Society of the United States. "Somebody had to have seen something. Somebody had to have heard something."

Rewards totaling $40,000 are still available in four unsolved monk seal killings on Kauai and Molokai in 2011 and 2012.

"We had some information, but the information wasn't enough to go and pull somebody into court," explained Aila.

The only person prosecuted for killing a monk seal is Charles Vidinha of Kauai, according to DLNR officials. He pleaded guilty to shooting a pregnant monk seal in 2009. This latest death of a female pup is a blow to the recovery of the critically endangered animals. There are an estimated 1,200 Hawaiian monk seals, with close to 200 living in the main Hawaiian Islands.

"The main Hawaiian Islands population is actually the only population at the moment that is doing well in terms of the population growth. It is very slowly growing," said Rachel Sprague, NOAA's Hawaiian monk seal recovery coordinator.

Killing a monk seal is a Class C felony. Violators can be sentenced to up to five years in prison and fined a maximum of $50,000.

"My advice to ocean-goers is get used to the presence of monk seals cause they belong here and they continue to belong here and this kind of behavior is unwarranted," said Aila.

A necropsy done on the female pup showed no signs of illness. There were no bite marks to indicate an animal attack, according to Sprague. Experts said the seal died from complications due to massive head trauma and internal bleeding.

Authorities urge anyone with information about the monk seal deaths to call a confidential hotline at 1-855-DLNR-TIP or 643-DLNR.

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