DLNR documents first recorded monk seal birth at Sand Island

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The state Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) has announced that a Hawaiian monk seal gave birth at Sand Island State Recreation Area on O‘ahu on Thursday, June 20.

Hawaiian monk seal Rocky (RH58) lies with her new pup after giving birth at Sand Island on Oʻahu on Thursday, June 20. (Courtesy of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources)

The department said it was the first time a monk seal birth was recorded and made the following announcement on Thursday evening:

Hawaiian monk seal Rocky (RH58) gave birth to a pup overnight. Today, Rocky and her pup rested on a beach at Sand Island State Recreation Area (SRA) on O‘ahu.

DLNR, NOAA, and Hawai‘i Marine Animal Rescue (HMAR) are working together to keep people away from the seal pair until the pup weans in five to seven weeks. It was possible Rocky would pup at Kaimana Beach, where her two previous O‘ahu pups were born. While she’d recently been spotted swimming offshore near Sand Island, it was a bit of a surprise she hauled out there, as the first seal on record to give birth at the popular park.


HMAR staff and volunteers have put up fencing around the entire cove where the seals are resting. Volunteers will be on hand to educate park users about monk seal behaviors and the need for people to give them wide berth.

Curt Cottrell, administrator of the DLNR Division of State Parks said, “On weekends and holidays in particular, Sand Island SRA is heavily used. We strongly request that people stay outside of the cordons and follow directions from HMAR representatives to keep a safe and respectful distance from the mother and seal pup.”

Experts are particularly concerned about the number of off-leash dogs and feral cats at Sand Island. Dogs have been known to attack resting monk seals, and cats are linked with the spread of the disease, Toxoplasmosis, which is known to kill monk seals. “We are asking people to stop feeding cats and to leave your dogs at home – dogs are not allowed at Sand Island,” Cottrell added.


Hawaiian monk seals are among the most endangered seals in the world, though their numbers have been rising in the main Hawaiian Islands in recent years. They are protected by numerous federal and state laws.

Officers from the DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE) are also keeping a watchful eye on the mom and her pup.

Rocky was born on Kaua‘i, is now 24 years old, and has pupped 15 seals. She was the first known seal to pup in Waikīkī, an event NOAA noted, “shocked the world and made her an ambassador for the species.”


Click here to see a video provided by the DLNR of Rocky the monk seal and her new pup on June 20.

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