Hawaii Monk Seals
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Scientific name: Monachus schauinslandi
Common Name: Hawaiian Monk Seal
Hawaiian Name(s): `Ilio-holo-i-ka-uaua.
USFWS Status: Endangered
Hawaiian Monk Seal
Distribution: Northwestern Hawaiian Islands; rare sightings on the main Hawaiian Islands. Only 2 species of monk seals survive in the world today. One lives in the remote areas of the Mediterranean Sea, and the other lives in the Leeward chain of the Hawaiian Islands. A third species used to inhabit the Caribbean, but was forced to extinction in the 1950s by the increased human use of the seal's habitat. The food of the monk seal consists of eels and small octopus.
The Hawaiian monk seal, Monachus schauinslandi, is an endangered earless seal that is endemic to the Hawaiian Islands.
Known to the native Hawaiians as Ilio-holo-i-ka-uaua, or "dog that runs in rough water," it received its scientific name Monachus schauinslandi when Dr. H. Schauinsland discovered the first skull known to science on Laysan Island. Its common name derives from its round head covered with short hairs, giving it the appearance of a medieval friar. The name may also reflect the fact that it lives a solitary existence relative to other species that collect in large colonies. Hawaiian monk seals are the most primitive living members of the Family Phocidae, having separated from other true seals perhaps 15 million years ago.
The Hawaiian monk seal is among the most endangered of all seal species, although its cousin species the Mediterranean Monk Seal (M. monachus) is even rarer, and the Caribbean Monk Seal (M. tropicalis), last sighted the 1950s, was officially declared extinct in June 2008. The population of Hawaiian monk seals is in decline. In 2010, it was estimated that only 1100 individuals remain. It is listed as critically endangered. The Hawaiian monk seal was officially designated as an endangered species on November 23, 1976, and is now protected by the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
Today, even though the islands are protected, many scientists believe that the effects of human activity along these fragile coastlines (and in the world at large) are still taking their toll
It is illegal to kill, capture or harass a Hawaiian monk seal.
To raise awareness for the species' plight, the Hawaiian monk seal was declared Hawaii's official State Mammal on June 11, 2008 by Lieutenant Governor James Aiona.