A Baby Hawaiian Monk Seal Born on Waikiki Beach

Hawaiian Monk Seal
Courtesy: Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources

The famous Hawaiian Song: May Day is Lei Day in Hawaiʻi became true with the birth of an endangered Hawaiian monk seal pup on Kaimana Beach in Waikiki. Hawaii Tourism Authority wants visitors to stay away- really?

Hawaiian Monk Seals are one of the most endangered species in the United States and are protected by State and Federal law.

Beachgoers in Waikiki are advised to avoid Kaimana Beach during this critical nursing period. Instead, the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) says, “We encourage visitors to go to one of the numerous other lifeguarded beaches across Oʻahu while NOAA Fisheries and Hawai‘i Marine Animal Response diligently monitor and safeguard the seals over the next five to seven weeks.”

Of course, this public announcement circulated by the Hawaii Tourism Authority may have the opposite effect: Tourists may rush to this beach with their cameras in record numbers.

Hawaii Tourism Authority is spreading the word

“We urge visitors to stay alert and keep a respectful distance from these endangered animals and other protected marine wildlife in Hawaiʻi. It’s important to note that mother seals can be highly protective of their young and may bite if they feel threatened.

If you are in an area where the seals are present, please adhere to the following viewing guidelines for your safety and the seals’ well-being:

What to do as a visitor when seeing the monk seal

  • Maintain a distance of at least 150 feet between yourself and the mother seal with her pups on land and in the water.
  • Respect any signage or barriers in place.
  • Follow the instructions provided by officials and on-site personnel.

Mother seal RK96, known as Kaiwi, gave birth to her latest pup on Kaimana Beach in Waikīkī! Community members reported the birth on May 1, 2024, and NOAA Fisheries, state, county, and non-profit partners implemented their joint response plan.

Hawaiian monk seals are one of the most endangered seal species in the world, so each pup represents hope for the species recovery. Unfortunately, new pups are also very vulnerable. It takes a combined effort to help them survive!

Taking Care of the Baby 

Kaiwi and her pup will be inseparable during the 5- to 7-week nursing period. The pup will spend most of its time nursing. It needs mom’s milk to develop properly and build reserves for surviving on its own when Kaiwi leaves in a few short weeks. If Kaiwi is disturbed during this critical period, she could abandon her pup, and the pup’s survival could be in jeopardy.

“Giving these seals space is the number one way you can support Hawaiian monk seal mothers and their pups,” said Kilali Gibson, Oʻahu Marine Wildlife Response Coordinator, NOAA Fisheries Pacific Islands Regional Office. “Approaching or attempting to play or swim with monk seals can change their behavior and ability to survive on their own in the wild.”

Swimmers should be aware to avoid injury

Keeping your distance is also vital for your safety. Hawaiian monk seals are generally not aggressive—but that can change during motherhood. Mother seals can be very protective of their new pups, which have previously seriously injured swimmers. We and our partners strongly recommend using alternate beach and ocean recreation areas, such as swimming.

“By staying behind the perimeter and choosing to swim at a different beach, you can stay safe while also playing a big part in helping recover this endangered species,” Gibson added.

This is now Kaiwi’s sixth pup! She was born on Oʻahu on the Kaiwi coastline and is 13 years old. Her previous pups include:

  • 2023 – RS36 (Pualani), female born on Kaimana Beach, Waikīkī
  • 2021 – RP96 (Lōliʻi), male born on Kaimana Beach, Waikīkī
  • 2020 – RM26 (Nohea), female born along Kaiwi coastline
  • 2018 – RK24 (Wawamalu), male born along Kaiwi coastline
  • 2016 – RH36 (Kawena), female born along Kaiwi coastline

Kaiwi is the second known seal to give birth in Waikīkī. The first was RH58 (Rocky). In 2017, Rocky gave birth to RJ58 (Kaimana) in 2017 and RQ58 (Koalani) in 2022.

About the author

Juergen T Steinmetz

Juergen Thomas Steinmetz has continuously worked in the travel and tourism industry since he was a teenager in Germany (1977).
He founded eTurboNews in 1999 as the first online newsletter for the global travel tourism industry.

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