The Hawaiian Monk Seal is the most critically endangered marine mammal in the United States. Fewer than 1,100 seals remain, and the overall population is continuing to decline by 4% per year. The 20% of the population that lives in the Main Hawaiian Islands is actually thriving and increasing at 6% per year, but the seals in the Main Hawaiian Islands are impacted daily by human related interactions.
NOAA Fisheries Service, Non-profits, and other non-governmental organizations have many programs and initiatives in place to help prevent the extinction of the species:
1.) Scientific conservation field research which includes the tagging, monitoring, and health studies in the North West Hawaiian Islands and here in the Main Hawaiian Islands. These programs tracks the entire population and informs of the trends and needs from a scientific perspective.
2.) The Marine Mammal Response Network covers the daily monitoring of seals in the Main Hawaiian Islands along with dehooking, disentanglements, and care of injured seals.
3.) Outreach programs: Throughout the main Hawaiian islands, education programs are conducted to inform Hawaii residents and visitors about the Hawaiian monk seals, the importance of the Main Hawaiian Islands to recovery, and how to behave around seals.
4.) Health assessment and care programs: NOAA Fisheries has partnered with The Marine Mammal Center in CA to build and develop a rehabilitation hospital in Kona, HI for sick, injured, and undersized monk seals and with the Waikiki Aquarium to house sick or injured seals for rehabilitation and eventual return to the wild.
What is missing from the recovery strategies, is a place of refuge or sanctuary for non-releasable seals. But with your assistance, we can make this new dedicated Hawaiian monk seal facility and education program at Sea Life Park a reality. Help us create a Monk Seal Pu`uhonua because every seal matters!
One of the most recent examples of a non-releasable seal is “Ho’ailona” (KP2). KP2 was born on Kaua`i and left shortly after his birth by his mother. That unfortunate occurrence triggered a series of events that would transform monk seal recovery in Hawai`i. Rescued by volunteers and NOAA staff, KP2 was brought to O`ahu, where volunteers nursed and cared for the newborn seal around the clock. KP2 would eventually be taken to Moloka`i and released in the county of Kalawao. Accustomed to human interaction as a result of the care taking which saved the abandoned pup’s life, KP2 sought out human relationships. He found his way to the Kaunakakai Harbor on the south side of Moloka`i, where he befriended children and adults alike. He would quickly become “Moloka`i’s Seal” and the Hawaiian and local community which adopted him gave him the name Hō ailona, meaning “sign” or “prophecy” as a symbol of the return of the seals to the inhabited Hawaiian islands.
Hō ailona interacting with surfers on Molokai. While Ho’ailona helped to raise support from community members on Molokai his “friendly behavior” became a public safety concern and started a movement on why seals need to stay wild.
Hō ailona now has a home at the Waikiki Aquarium where he is an ambassador for the species.
Want to learn more about KP2's amazing journey and the science it inspired? Download Conservation Through Science: The Journey of a Hawaiian Monk Seal
by Beau P. Richter, Traci L. Kendall and Dr. Terrie M. Williams
Another recent example of a non-releasable seal is “Kaimalino” (KE18). This seal lived on Kure and Midway atolls in the northwest Hawaiian Islands where he became unnaturally aggressive toward several females and their young and had to be removed from the wild to protect the population. He was removed from Midway atoll on and brought to the Waikiki Aquarium for temporary holding. He since has been moved to California for 2 years.
Since being brought into an aquarium setting this seal has mellowed a great deal to the point where Hawaiian Cultural Practitioners have given him the name Kaimalino.
Kaimalino is a combination of the words kai (ocean) and malino (calm, quiet, peaceful, pacific, as the sea). The name has two meanings: the first is just a description of his emerging personality, he is a calm animal and kinolau of Kanaloa, which represents all elements of the ocean. The name is a hope that he remains this way. The kaona (or hidden meaning) comes from an older translation of the word malino
Ma-li-no adj. Ma and lino. See LINOLINO. Calm; quiet, as one whose spirits have been ruffled; calm, as the surface of water without wind; quiet; gentle. See MALIE. Reflecting light, as calm water. See OLINO.
So the kaona of the name is a reference to the calm that has been brought to the kai (ocean waters) from which he was taken. It is a spiritual offering that wishes malino on the place that was disrupted by his behavior. It is a hope that all the spiritual and biological disruption is gone in him and that he remains calm.
Kaimalino will someday return back to Hawaii and he needs a home.
Q: Why do monk seals need a permanent care facility?
A: With an endangered population such as the Hawaiian monk seal the goal is to strive for a healthy wild population. Injured seals may be rehabilitated and place back in the ocean for a second chance at life in the wild, however, sometimes, seals in the wild may become injured or debilitated making survival in the wild impossible, other seals have become too friendly and must be removed for the safety of the seal and the public.
Q: Where will the new facility be constructed?
This new dedicated facility for non-releasable seals will be built at Sea Life Park Hawaii on the Island of Oahu. It will provide these seals with a home where they can live out their lives safely and securely, as strong ambassadors for their species.
Q: If an animal is brought to this facility, will it go back into the wild?
A: No, this facility is for the permanent care of those seals which cannot be returned to the wild.
Q: How can I make a donation?
A: Contributions may be made online by clicking on the donate button on this page or you can send a check payable to "Monk Seal Foundation- Pu'uhonua Initiative" to:
Monk Seal Foundation
P.O. Box 10042
Lahaina, HI 96761