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Endangered Hawaiian monk seal given stronger protection under new Hawaii law

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With only 1,100 Hawaiian monk seals estimated still living in the wild—mostly in the remote northwestern Hawaiian Islands—the native species is among the most endangered in the world. Biologists predict that with the current population of monk seals declining at an annual rate of 4 percent—primarily due to low birth rates—seal numbers could dip below 1,000 within the next three to four years.

endangered_Hawaiian_monk_seal_stronger_protection_lawThe Hawaiian monk seal was declared Hawaii’s official state mammal in June 2008, a designation government officials hoped would raise international awareness about the native Hawaii marine mammal’s plight. Only 80 to 100 monk seals are believed to reside in waters surrounding the main Hawaiian Islands, where the animals are beloved by Hawaii residents and visitors alike.

Monk seals are so enamored in Hawaii that even the semi-regular occasion of one waddling up on a popular beach to rest or sun itself draws throngs of gawkers, and makes evening TV news broadcasts. When one does turn up on a populated beach, volunteer Hawaiian monk seal response teams immediately swing into action—cordoning off the immediate area surrounding the animal and keeping watch until it decides to shuffle back into the ocean.

For more information on what you should do if you find an unprotected monk seal on a Hawaii beach, or witness someone harming a monk seal, click here.

Photos: Wikipedia Commons (pg. 1, top), Kauai Monk Seal Watch Program (pg. 1, bottom; pg. 2)

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Check out these related HawaiiMagazine.com posts:
Hawaiian monk seal named Hawaii's state mammal
Rare Hawaiian monk seal abandoned on Kauai finds new home at Waikiki Aquarium
New, first-ever Hawaiian monk seal hospital helps save four seal pups

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