Reward offered after young monk seal found bludgeoned to death

RF58 (Photo: Mary Miyashiro)

An endangered native Hawaiian monk seal — still just a pup — was found beaten to death on Kauai Sunday, and now wildlife officials want to know who killed the protected animal.

They say the young female seal, known as RF58, was found dead on Anahola Beach. She was born on June 28, 2014, on Kauai’s northeast coast.

She is the fifth monk seal killed in the islands in just the past three years. Killing a monk seal is a felony crime, but so far, no one’s been caught for any of these past cases.

From November 2011 to April 2012, four Hawaiian monk seals were found dead under suspicious circumstances on Kauai and Molokai.

Officials haven’t had luck finding the person or persons responsible, and now with this recent death being added to the pile of unsolved cases, a bigger reward is being offered.

On Tuesday, the Humane Society of the United States, along with the Conservation Council for Hawaii, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Monk Seal Foundation, offered $5,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person(s) responsible. That reward was later doubled to $10,000, and then matched by The Garden Island newspaper for a total reward of $20,000.

“We must put an end to this senseless slaughter of Hawaiian monk seals. We hope this reward will convince someone to step forward with information that will lead to the person or persons responsible for this heinous act,” said Bill Buley, TGI editor in chief.

RF58 was the daughter of a well-known seal, RH58 or “Rocky,” who spends most of her time on Oahu, but usually pups on Kauai. She and her mother were victims of a dog attack in July 2014 that killed another pup. After developing abscesses from the dog bites, RF58 was treated by a veterinarian and recovered.

The pup was seen on Saturday and appeared to be in perfect health. Then on Sunday, the grisly discovery was made.

“It is definitely not pono to bash in the head of a baby monk seal,” said William Aila of the Dept. of Land and Natural Resources.

Who is responsible for the killings of monk seals? “Someone who is crazy,” Aila said. “it could be someone who has marine interest, someone who doesn’t like the government and sees this is one big conspiracy.”

The deaths have prompted harsher laws: Killing Hawaiian monk seals is a class C felony — anyone convicted could face up to five years in prison and $50,000 in fines. The last time someone was convicted of killing a monk seal in Hawaii, the sentence was just 90 days.

Monk seals are endemic to Hawaii; they are a native species found nowhere else in the world. The species is critically endangered.

Aila said “my advice to oceangoers, get used to the presence of monk seals. They belong here. They’ve always belonged here. This kind of behavior is unwarranted.”

Anyone having information related to these monk seal deaths should call the NOAA Office of Law Enforcement hotline at 1-800-853-1964 or Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement tipline at 1-855-DLNR-TIP or 643-DLNR.

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