Hawai'i State News

First Hawaiian monk seal pup of the year born on O‘ahu

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The first O‘ahu-born Hawaiian monk seal pup was born on Feb. 6 on the North Shore.

NOAA is working with Hawaiʻi Marine Animal Response to monitor and ensure that mom and pup are given lots of space and continue to provide outreach to beachgoers in the area.

Seal pup Makana lays in the water at roughly five weeks old. The pup was born in February 2024 on Oʻahu. Credit Hawaiʻi Marine Animal Response (NOAA Fisheries Permit #24359)

“Our hardworking team members dedicate thousands of hours each year to help NOAA monitor pups and build public support for these magnificent animals through public outreach,” said Jon Gelman, HMAR president and founder. “It’s an honor to watch over a new pup. Our dream is to see the population recover, and each successful pupping is a step toward realizing that dream.”

Once a pup is born, monk seal researchers give the pup a temporary NOAA ID. This young male’s ID is PO1 because he’s the first Oʻahu pup of the year. But PO1 also recently received a special name, Makana, named by students with the fifth-grade class at Kahuku Elementary School.


Hawaiʻi Marine Animal Response has a program with local schools that gives students the opportunity to name new pups. They also learn about these native seals and their collective kuleana (responsibility) to them.

RK80 (Keolakai) and her first-ever pup, Makana, swim in the water. Credit Hawaiʻi Marine Animal Response (NOAA Fisheries Permit #24359)

Students chose the name Makana because of the saying: He makana maikaʻi na mākou, meaning “a lovely gift for us.” Their teacher noted that “each time an endangered animal has a pup, we are overjoyed at the gift we receive by the furthering of the species.”

“We were very excited to work with the class and give them the chance to name the first pup of the season,” said Clara Orr, HMAR Marine Programs manager. “The students were incredibly creative and thoughtful with their name choice.”


RK80, known as Keolakai, is one of the last pups born to the famous R5AY (Honey Girl). Keolakai translates to “the life, the health, and the well-being of the sea.” It speaks to the life of the ocean manifesting life in the pup, and the pup manifesting life in the sea.

Students at Hauʻula Elementary School gifted her this name. Like any new mom, this is a momentous celebration for Keolakai, since Makana is her first-ever pup. Hopefully, Keolakai will be a future matriarch like Honey Girl, continuing the recovery of their species.

Monk seal mothers typically nurse their young for 5–7 weeks before heading off on their own. During this short time, it’s vitally important for the pup to get the nourishment it needs to survive. Help these endangered pups by following these best practices:

  • Give mothers with pups at least 150 feet of space on land and in the water—moms can be protective if they think you’re too close
  • Keep dogs leashed any time you’re at the beach (you never know where a seal may be)
  • Report all seal sightings to our statewide NOAA Marine Wildlife Hotline: 888-256-9840

Hawaiian monk seals are native to Hawaiʻi and are protected by state and federal laws. To minimize potential disturbance, we typically do not publicly announce the specific location of a mother and pup. We appreciate the community’s understanding and support during these crucial nursing periods. Let’s admire from afar to keep everyone safe!

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