Reward offered in monk seal slayings

The Garden Island
By Coco Zickos – The Garden Island

LIHU‘E — The recent murders of two critically endangered Hawaiian monk seals has prompted many community members and organizations to respond in the ancient species’ defense.

Surfrider Foundation Kaua‘i announced Thursday that it will be offering a monetary reward to anyone with information which could lead to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for killing the monk seals.

“I, like many others, am outraged that someone out there would kill these animals,” said Dr. Carl Berg of Surfrider Kaua‘i. “They are the original inhabitants of the islands and were here long before humans.”

The monk seal —– ‘ilio-holo-i-ka-uaua, or “the dog that runs in the rough seas” — is sometimes referred to as a “living fossil” because they have essentially remained the same for at least 13 million years, well before the arrival of human beings on the planet and even longer than the Main Hawaiian Islands, according to the Marine Conservation Biology Institute.

“Personally speaking, I’m baffled by people who want to hurt animals and specifically animals that are not able to defend themselves, are endangered species and are not causing any negative impact to humans,” said Dr. Gordon LaBedz, one of the original founders of Surfrider Kaua‘i. “We hope this reward will be an incentive to put this practice to rest.”

The monk seal’s lone predators on land here are humans.

The Hawaiian monk seal originally occurred throughout the Hawaiian archipelago and was “likely extirpated from the Main Hawaiian Islands by Polynesian colonizers 1,500 to 1,600 years ago,” a study published in The Journal of Heredity states.

They were susceptible targets for hunting activities which took a toll on their population and upon the arrival of the first European sailors during the 19th century, they “were hunted to near extinction at the six primary Northwestern Hawaiian Islands subpopulation — French Frigate Shoals, Laysan, Lisianski, Pearl and Hermes Reef, Midway Atoll and Kure.”

“The bottom line is we don’t want this to happen again and anybody who does this will suffer consequences,” LaBedz said, as he explained why his organization, along with NOAA and the Hawai‘i Monk Seal Conservation Hui worked together to help prevent these circumstances from happening again by offering a sizable reward. “We don’t want people to forget about this. It’s not OK.”

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