monk seal pup

The baby Hawaiian monk seal and its mother are just behind the Lotus Honolulu hotel and the New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel in Waikiki. 

Photo By Tracy Chan/HAWAII Magazine

"Rocky," an endangered Hawaiian monk seal, gives birth on Kaimana Beach in Waikiki

It's a rare treat to see, but onlookers are warned to be respectful and not get too close

The Hawaiian monk seal is one of the most endangered marine mammals in the world (there are about 1,400 in the wild now), the rarest seal or sea lion in US waters, and only one of two mammal species native to Hawaii. So it’s even more unusual that this female Hawaiian monk seal, tagged RH58 but nicknamed “Rocky,” has given birth on one of Oahu’s busiest beaches.

Rocky’s nine previous pups were born on Kauai, but this little one, pup No. 10 (no one has given it a name yet that we know of but we’re voting for “Kai” after Kaimana Beach, where the pair are located) has quickly become a celebrity, with people lining the safety barricades for a glimpse of the little dark head and flippers playing beside its mother’s bulk.

monk seal
Photo: Tracy Chan/HAWAII Magazine

Hawaiian Monk Seal Recovery Program coordinator Angela Amlin says the pup was born on Kaimana Beach late Wednesday or early Thursday morning.

monk seal
Photo: Tracy Chan/HAWAII Magazine

The pair are expected to stay on the beach for about 40 days, as the pup matures enough for a longer journey in the ocean.

Fun fact: In Hawaiian, monk seals are referred to as "llio holo i ka uaua," meaning "dog that runs in rough water." 

monk seal
Barricades have been set up around the pair. 
Photo: Tracy Chan/HAWAII Magazine

Hawaiian monk seals are listed as endangered on the U.S. Endangered Species List and the State of Hawaii’s Endangered Species List, and also protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act. If you are fortunate enough to see a seal on the beach or in the water in Hawaii, NOAA lists these guidelines for safe viewing of the rare creatures. 

  • It is natural for monk seals to come ashore or haul out on the beach for long periods of time. Please give them the space they need to rest and do not attempt to push them back into the water.
  • Roped off areas on the beach are for your safety and their protection - please do not enter.
  • If approached by a seal, move away to avoid interaction. If in the ocean, cautiously exit the water.
  • Pets, especially dogs, can pose a significant risk to monk seals. Please keep them on a leash when in the presence of monk seals to avoid injury or disease transmission.
  • In the ocean, monk seals may exhibit inquisitive behavior. Approaching or attempting to play or swim with them may alter their behavior and their ability to fend for themselves in the wild.
     
  • Cautiously move away if you observe the following monk seal behaviors indicating it has been disturbed:
  • Female attempting to shield a pup with her body or by her movements
  • Vocalization (growling) or rapid movement away from the disturbance
  • Sudden awakening from sleep on the beach