A natural wonder often seen on Kauai beaches in the Poipu Resort area, the Hawaiian monk seal is among the most endangered creature in Hawaii and on earth. Some of our Kauai vacation rental guests get to know this fascinating mammal first hand when they volunteer with the Hawaiian Monk Seal Conservation Hui.
One of only two mammals endemic to Hawaii (the second being the Hawaiian bat), the Hawaiian monk seal is often referred to as a “living fossil.” They have remained relatively unchanged for over 15 million years.
Currently there are presumed to be only forty-five that call our waters and Kauai beaches their home. The rest of the population lives on the Hawaiian archipelago which stretches from the Big Island of Hawaii northwestward past Midway Island. Nearly 90% of the monk seals live around the small uninhabited islands and atolls in the upper reaches of the Hawaiian island chain.
Top Ten Ways to Protect Hawaiian Monk Seals
These are truly unique animals and we ask for your help in keeping them safe on our Kauai beaches.
- Stay behind barricades or signs around a basking seal and at least 150 feet from seals in unmarked areas.
- Maintain a much greater distance from a mother and pup or any seal that appears disturbed or agitated.
- Pass outside barricades or above an un-barricaded seal, and never pass between the seal and ocean.
- Never approach or attempt to feed a seal on the beach, while swimming, or from a boat.
- View quietly. Do not throw sand, stones, objects, or make noise to induce movement and create photo ops.
- Do not attempt to push seals back in the water.
- Photograph seals from the proper distance with a telephoto lens and never use flash photography.
- Advise children of the proper viewing behavior. An agitated seal could bite or cause other serious injury.
- Report any seal harassment to Kauai Marine Conservation Coordinator at 808-651-7668 or Kauai Police Dispatch at 808-241-6711.
- State and federal laws prohibit harassment or disturbance of a seal. Fines exceed $25,000 and up to 5 years imprisonment.
Characteristics and Traits of Hawaiian Monk Seals
The adult monk seals appear dark grey to brown on their top and light grey to a yellowish brown on their bottom. A normal healthy adult monk seal can weigh upwards of 600 pounds or more and range from six to eight feet in length. Adult females are usually slightly larger than the adult males. Newborn pups have black fur which they lose as they approach the weaning period, afterwards assuming the dark grey coloring like that of mature seals. Monk seals are believed to have a lifespan between twenty-five and thirty years.
The gestation period for the pregnant monk seal is approximately eleven months with most pups born between February and July, although births can occur at any time of year. The preferred birthing sites for mothers are gently sloping beaches with adjoining shallow water which protects the young from predators such as sharks. There have been several births seen on the shores of Poipu Beach in recent years.
Hawaiian Monk Seals feed on eels, lobsters, octopi, and other small reef and bottom fish, often diving to depths of 245-300 feet for food. Although dive lengths average eight minutes, seals have been known to dive up to twenty minutes. For the first six weeks after birth, newborn pups feed only on its mother’s milk with the nursing mothers staying with its pup the entire time, forgoing hunting and feeding.