Female Hawaiian monk seal found dead in Mokuleia

Nihoa with pup (Photo courtesy NOAA Fisheries)
Nihoa with pup (Photo courtesy NOAA Fisheries)

Marine wildlife officials are still trying to figure out what recently killed a Hawaiian monk seal.

A female monk seal named Nihoa, believed to be about 9 years old, was found dead by volunteers last Friday on Mokuleia beach on Oahu.

Her remains were taken to NOAA’s Ford Island facility, where a necropsy was performed. Researchers could not determine a cause of death, but say the animal was “in robust nutritional condition” and had just recently eaten.

The report goes on to say that “no fractures were observed, but a large opening in the skin/blubber and muscle was present along the right chest and abdomen, however it is uncertain whether this occurred during or after death, but likely related to bloating.”

Jon Gelman of the Hawaii Marine Mammal Alliance said “what it does appear is that there were wounds around the animal not of any abnormal cause. It didn’t appear to have any human interaction that caused these wounds. Tissue samples were taken and they’ve been sent for further examination.

“It was seemingly in good health. It gave birth to its third pup only in mid-June, so we know it was feeding, foraging locally and was seen locally in good condition,” he said.

Photo courtesy NOAA Fisheries
Photo courtesy NOAA Fisheries

The monk seal was first observed on the Northwestern Hawaiian island of Nihoa (where she got her name) in 2011 and made her way to Oahu the same year.

She frequented the west, north and eastern shores and had 3 pups, all born in Mokuleia near the Kaena Point parking lot. Nihoa was the second documented case of a Northwestern Hawaiian islands animal to have pups in the main Hawaiian islands.

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