Maui News

Monk Seal with Knife in its Mouth Sparks Concern Over Proper Trash Disposal

April 17, 2018, 3:33 PM HST
* Updated April 18, 9:58 AM
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Baby seal with knife. PC: DLNR Hawaiʻi.

Crews observing a Hawaiian monk seal pup on Hawai‘i Island, spotted it playing with a bright orange object in its mouth.

As they watched the seal dive beneath near-shore rocks and come back up they realized the pup, known affectionately as Manu‘iwa, was holding a knife in its mouth.

The DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement officer who captured the incident on video commented, “There was real concern that the seal pup might swallow the knife. It’s a reminder to all of us to properly dispose of our trash and not to leave it on Hawai‘i’s beaches or in the ocean.”

At one point the seal dropped the 5″ knife under the rocks and it was later retrieved.

Volunteers from The Marine Mammal Center were able to retrieve the knife when the monk seal left the area.

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“Monk seal pups of Manuʻiwa’s age are essentially toddler-like in their behavior, and aren’t necessarily aware of the dangers of the objects they find in their environment,” said Dr. Claire Simeone director of Ke Kai Ola, the Center’s hospital for Hawaiian monk seals in Kona. “We are so grateful that our response volunteers were able to safely resolve this situation and help keep this young pup safe.”

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Staff from Ke Kai Ola and DOCARE officers have been monitoring the pup’s health and growth.

Animal experts say that it’s critical for young seals not to have human interactions so they can learn to be wild animals, especially after they’ve weaned from their moms and are on their own.

Response volunteers with the Center will remain in the areas where Manuʻiwa frequents to provide outreach to the community as well as observe the pup to ensure that she is not exhibiting early signs of habituation, or interacting with potentially dangerous materials.  Center representatives say she will continue to take an interest in things in her environment, and that includes humans – this puts her at a much higher risk for habituation, which can be dangerous for the seal and for other people.

The Center recommends 3 Simple Steps to co-exist and ensure Manuʻiwa’s survival on her home island:

  1. Pause– BE BORING and IGNORE HER
  2. Protect– DO NOT ENGAGE, SAFEGUARD YOURSELF
  3. Respond– CALL 808-987-0765 to REPORT SIGHTINGS
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NOAA’s Office of National Marine Fisheries asks people to report all monk seal sightings to your island’s Marine Mammal Response Coordinator:

Oʻahu: 808-220-7802
Kauaʻi: 808-651-7668
Molokaʻi: 808-553-5555
Maui / Lānaʻi: 808-292-2372
Hawaiʻi Island – East: 808-756-5961
Hawaiʻi Island – West: 808-987-0765

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