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Monk Seal and Pup Vacate North Kohala Beach Park

February 3, 2014, 3:52 PM HST
* Updated February 3, 3:55 PM
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A Hawaiian monk seal and her now 2½-month-old pup have left a North Kohala beach park, which means its normal operating hours are back in effect.

When the pup was born in the early evening of Nov. 11 at Keokea Beach Park, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration asked the county to close the park at 7:30 each night to minimize public interaction with the newborn and its mother.

NOAA told the county that the pair left the park’s shoreline last week and has not been seen since, which means the park will once again be open until 11 p.m. nightly.

“The Department of Parks and Recreation thanks park users and the general public for understanding the need to protect one of Hawaii’s most unique and loved animals,” a spokesman for the department said today.

According to NOAA, the pup was one of about 10 of the critically endangered seals to have been born on the Big Island over the past decade.

It was at least a second-generation Big Island seal, as its mother was born in Waimanu Valley in September 2008.

The lineage of the pup’s grandmother was not known.

At the time of the birth, the pup’s mother was a little more than 5 years old, making her the second-youngest monk seal known to have given birth in the main Hawaiian Islands.

The population of adult Hawaiian monk seals on the Big Island ranges from five to 10 at any given time, a NOAA official said.

They are among an estimated 150 seals living in the main Hawaiian Islands, where births have been increasing in recent years.

According to NOAA, the total population of Hawaiian monk seals is estimated at less than 1,100 individuals, making them among the most endangered animals in the world. Most of the seals live in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands where their population is declining.

Early last year, a juvenile monk seal suffering from breathing difficulties was transported from the Big Island to Oahu, where it later died.

A necropsy indicated it probably died from an ingested fish hook.

The death of the seal tagged as “RK68” was the first recorded fatality of a monk seal on the Big Island.

Hawaiian monk seals are protected under both federal and state laws. Anyone who intentionally harasses, harms or kills a Hawaiian monk seal face penalties that include a fine of up to $50,000 and a five-year prison sentence.

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