The Green Leaf

Monk seal pup RF58

December 4th, 2014

 

Rocky (RH58) and her pup (RF58) at Waipake Beach, Kauai. The pup was found dead by officials, with apparent blunt force trauma to its head last week. Photo by Jamie Thornton/NOAA.

Rocky (RH58) and her pup (RF58) at Waipake Beach, Kauai. The pup was found dead, with blunt trauma to its head last Sunday. Photo by Jamie Thompton/NOAA.

It's with great sadness that we mark the end of 2014 with the suspicious death of a Hawaiian monk seal pup on the northeast coast of Kauai.

Female pup seal RF58, died from apparent blunt force trauma to the head at a beach in Anahola on Sunday, Nov. 30. She was only an estimated 4 to 5 months old. The pup was  the daughter of Rocky (RH58) who spends most of her time on Oahu. Both had recently survived a dog attack on the north shore of Kauai in July — RF58 was one of two pups that recovered from that attack.

"What a sad day for all our volunteers who worked so hard in keeping track of all the seals out there on Kauai," said Barbara Billand, a volunteer for the Monk Seal Foundation on Oahu, in an e-mail. "I don't know why anyone would harm these poor pups. They are defenseless...vulnerable. All they are trying to do is survive."

Billand recalls having the opportunity to see RF58 as a newborn pup on Kauai back in June, when she was still with Rocky. She considers that day as a gift, as she witnessed RF58 struggle with some waves and then catch up to Rocky.

"What a great feeling of joy," she said.

"She was a beautiful, healthy little girl," said Billand. "May she rest in peace."

The news of the seal pup's death, announced Tuesday by NOAA and DLNR, is the first one due to suspicious circumstances this year. The last suspicious death of a Hawaiian monk seal was in April 2012, also on Kauai. From November 2011 to April 2012, four seals were found dead under suspicious circumstances on Kauai and Molokai.

An initial reward of $5,000 has been doubled to $10,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for this latest monk seal death. The Garden Island newspaper on Kauai is also offering a $10,000 reward, which was announced Friday.

Monk seal pup RF58 was found dead due to blunt force injuries, as a necropsy later revealed. She was one of two pups that had just survived a dog attack in July. Photo by Jamie Thompton/NOAA.

Monk seal pup RF58 was found dead due to blunt force injuries to her head, and internal bleeding, a necropsy later revealed. She was one of two pups that had just survived a dog attack in July. Photo by Jamie Thompton/NOAA.

I can't imagine why anyone would want to hurt a Hawaiian monk seal pup — out of viciousness or just for sport. It shows a real lack of respect for nature, and for life.

Hawaiian monk seals are a critically endangered species protected under both state and federal laws. Only an estimated 1,100 remain in the wild. Most reside in the Northwestern Hawaiian islands, but a growing number, about 200, live in and around the main Hawaiian islands. They have a lifespan of 25 to 30 years.

Many, like Rocky, also travel back and forth. Rocky travels to Kauai to give birth to monk seal pups — when the pups wean, mom leaves. The loss of a female monk seal is a blow to the survival of the species, since they are the ones that produce new pups.

Killing a Hawaiian monk seal is considered a Class C felony, with violators facing fines up to $50,000 and five years in prison.

RF58 was observed near her birthplace less than 24 hours before she was found dead, in good health and behaving normally.

A confidential hotline is available at 1-855-DLNR-TIP or 643-DLNR.

Rest in peace, RF58. You will not be forgotten.

RF58 on day of birth taken by Gary Langley

Photo of RF58 on day of birth taken by Gary Langley.

One Response to “Monk seal pup RF58”

  1. The Green Leaf Year 2014 in eco-retrospective:

    […] occurrence, with the suspicious death of a monk seal pup on the north shore of Kauai in November. Monk seal pup RF58 died from apparent blunt force trauma to the head. She was only about 4 to 5 months old, the […]


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