Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Native Species of the Week: Hawaiian monk seal

What's that in the tidepool? A fish? A shark?

It's an endangered Hawaiian monk seal!

These monk seals were spotted at Kaena Point Natural Area Reserve on the island of Oahu. Hawaiian monk seals are native to Hawaii, and they are endemic, meaning they are found no place else in the world. This is their only home.

Monk seals love to relax and recharge in the tidepools, and can often be seen here, at the Western-most point of Oahu.

Monk seals used to live throughout the Hawaiian archipelago, and along with the Hawaiian Bat, is one of only two native mammals that live in the islands.

The Hawaiian name for monk seal is 'īlio-holo-i-ka-uaua, and translates into English roughly as "dog running in the toughness," which probably refers both to it's doglike face and it's awkward way of moving on land.

To learn more about monk seals, visit the NOAA Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center page.

Other animals you may see at Kaena include Laysan Albatross and Humpback whales
, depending on the season.

If you visit Kaena Point, make sure to respect all posted signs within the Natural Area Reserve, and be prepared! (See below for guidelines)

Keep an eye out for the monk seals, but make sure to observe them from a distance. Bring your binoculars and zoom-lens camera, and you'll be able to watch these endangered animals play and lounge in the shallows.
Some guidelines for visiting this amazing place:
- Be prepared! Bring lots of water. It is usually hot and sunny in this area.
- Wear comfortable clothes, hiking or walking shoes, sunscreen and a hat.
- The hike is 2.5 miles long, and can take up to 3 hours, depending on your pace.
- Be aware of the big waves and strong currents along the coast, and stay away from the water unless you are familiar with these hazardous conditions.

Kaena Point is a favorite spot on Oahu for Endangered Hawaiian monk seals, you can help their home be a pleasant place for them and for visitors:
- Leave your pets at home; dogs can disturb or even kill ground-nesting birds.
- Stay on the trails and avoid disturbing the birds.
- Prevent fires and carry out all your rubbish.
- Lend a hand and pick up litter on the ground.
- Leave all living things as you found them.

For more info about Kaena Point, visit The Kaena Point NAR info page

Click here to watch "Restoring A Sanctuary," a movie about restoration at Kaena Point.

Click here to learn more about the Kaena Point Ecosystem Restoration Project

All photos: B. Gagne

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