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Marine Mammal Center Advises Public on Knife-Wielding Monk Seal

April 18, 2018, 9:28 AM HST
* Updated April 18, 9:29 AM
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Monk seal pup with knife, April 15, 2018. Photo courtesy of DLNR.

Manuʻiwa, a recently weaned Hawaiian monk seal pup on Hawaiʻi Island, was observed playing with a knife with a five-inch blade on Sunday, April 15, 2018, by volunteers with The Marine Mammal Center’s Response Team in Kona.

Manuʻiwa recently weaned from her mother, RA20, and is under observation by the center’s volunteers to ensure that she remains wild.

Volunteers with the center were able to retrieve the knife when Manuʻiwa left the area, preventing the seal from playing with the dangerous object.

“Monk seal pups of Manuʻiwa’s age are essentially toddler-like in their behavior, and aren’t necessarily aware of the dangers of the objects they find in their environment,” said Dr. Claire Simeone, director of Ke Kai Ola, the center’s hospital for Hawaiian monk seals in Kona. “We are so grateful that our response volunteers were able to safely resolve this situation and help keep this young pup safe.”

The next few months are critical for Manuʻiwa as she continues to learn how to be a monk seal pup.

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Response volunteers with the center will remain in the areas where she frequents to provide outreach to the community as well as observe the pup to ensure that she is not exhibiting early signs of habituation, or interacting with potentially dangerous materials.

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She will continue to take an interest in things in her environment, and that includes humans—this puts her at a much higher risk for habituation (diminishing physiological or emotional response to a frequently repeated stimulus), which can be dangerous for her and for other people.

It is essential that the public avoids interacting with her to prevent habituation.

It is also a sobering reminder to take care with our belongings and dispose of items appropriately to prevent them from entering our ocean ecosystem.

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The Center recommends 3 Simple Steps to co-exist and ensure Manuʻiwa’s survival on her home island:

1. Pause: BE BORING and IGNORE HER

2. Protect: DO NOT ENGAGE, SAFEGUARD YOURSELF

3. Respond: CALL (808) 987-0765 to REPORT SIGHTINGS

If members of the public see Manuʻiwa in the wild, they are encouraged to call The Marine Mammal Center’s hotline (808) 987-0765 to report the sighting. Community members should not enter the water near a monk seal, even to remove a dangerous object, and should instead call the center’s experts immediately.

The Marine Mammal Center’s hospital and education center in Kona is dedicated to saving the endangered Hawaiian monk seal from extinction. Through rehabilitation and community outreach, the team at Ke Kai Ola is saving individual animals and inspiring visitors, students and community members to take action to protect Hawaiian monk seals and ocean health.

Ke Kai Ola is open to the public Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Call (808) 326-7325 to schedule your visit or speak to our team about volunteer or education opportunities.

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