Hawai'i State News

Hawaiian monk seal Malama dies of blunt force trauma on O’ahu; previously treated at Big Island facility

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Hawaiian monk seal Malama (RQ76) explores a rehabilitation pool pen during treatment at Ke Kai Ola’s Marine Mammal Center on the Big Island. (Marine Mammal Center)

The endangered Hawaiian monk seal Malama, who was treated for malnutrition at Ke Kai Ola’s Marine Mammal Center on the Big Island and found dead on March 12 on O’ahu, was killed by blunt force trauma, according to NOAA Fisheries.

The federal agency — after consulting with national experts in marine mammal radiology and forensics — said it now believes it was an intentional killing.

NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement is offering a potential reward of up to $5,000 for information that leads to the successful prosecution of those responsible. Anyone with information should contact NOAA’s Enforcement Hotline: 800-853-1964.


Last year, Malama (RQ76) was rescued on Oʻahu because she was significantly malnourished after weaning, and unlikely to survive. The pup was transferred to the Big Island’s Marine Mammal Center aboard a U.S. Coast Guard aircraft .

The center’s team provided months of dedicated care to rehabilitate her, getting her back up to a healthy weight. After successful rehabilitation, she was released back on Oʻahu in January 2023. After release, she was observed regularly in good body condition and exhibiting normal seal behavior.

But on March 12, Hawai’i Marine Animal Resources received a public report of a deceased seal and it was Malama. She was found at ʻŌhikilolo, between Keaʻau Beach Park and Mākua Valley.


Malamaʻs death was first investigated at the scene by the Hawai‘i State Department of Land and Natural Resources. RQ76 was recovered and transported to a NOAA facility for post-mortem examination by Hawaiʻi Marine Animal Response. The results indicated the seal died of severe blunt-force trauma.

The Hawaiian monk seal is one of the most endangered seal species in the world. They are native to the Hawaiian archipelago—found nowhere else in the world—and are protected under the Endangered Species Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act and Hawai‘i law.

The monk seal population has been in decline for six decades, but numbers have been increasing over the past 10 years due in part to NOAA’s and partners’ recovery efforts

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