The Hawaiian Monk Seal or Ilio-holo-i-ka-uaua in the Hawaiian language ( literally "dog that runs in rough water") is a rare species of earless seal that are found throughout the Hawaiian Island Chain. Based on its prehistoric and unspecialized skeletal and vascular anatomy, the Hawaiian Monk Seal is considered the most primitive of living seals and that descends from the Caribbean species somewhere in the North Atlantic Ocean some 15 million years ago. The Hawaiian Monk Seal has be adopted as Hawaii's State Mammal.
The Hawaiian Monk Seal is considered endemic to the Hawaiian Island Chain. This means that this particular species of seal (from the Phocidae family) is only found here. The "Ilio holo i ka uaua" is on the endangered species list and current numbers of Hawaiian Monk Seals are said to be around 1200 individuals in and around the Hawaiian Islands. The largest populations of these unique marine mammals is found in an area north of the island of Kauai. This area is called the Northwest Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge. Here, these animals (and other endemic species) are protected from many modern-day dangers. Current uses are limited primarily to management activities by jurisdictional agencies, research, education, Native Hawaiian practices, and a small number of recreational trips and visits to historical sites.
Hawaiian Monk Seals spend 75% of their lifetime in the ocean. Their primary diet includes:
- Various Reef Fish
The 25% of their life that is not in the ocean is generally basking on the sandy beach and volcanic outcroppings of the Hawaiian Islands. If you do happen to encounter a Hawaiian Monk Seal on one of the coastal areas of Hawaii, please only view from a safe distance. These animals are protected by state and federal law, not to mention, possess canine teeth that can be used in defense. Safe viewing is approximately 150 feet away from the animal.
Report monk seal sightings to the monk seal hotline: (808) 220-7802, but don’t approach or disturb them.
Click here to find out other ways you can help the Hawaiian Monk Seal.