HONOLULU (KHON2) — A Hawaiian monk seal and her newborn pup are making Kaimana Beach their home for now.
The pair is expected to stick around for the next several weeks, so officials are once again asking beachgoers to keep their distance.
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Rocky gave birth to her new pup — named PO8 — on Saturday, July 9 in Waikiki.
22-year-old Rocky gave birth to her 14th pup on Saturday, photographer Joyce Hsieh said she will bark — and even bite — if folks get too close.
“And there’s nothing you can do about that because all moms are protective of their pups and babies and, no, this is instinct, she’ll just jump at you, that’s all there is,” Hsieh said.
Regulations from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration usually require folks to stay 50 feet back when there is a Hawaiian monk seal on the beach, but that increases to 150 feet when there is a mother and pup.
Experts said those regulations are not just to keep the seals safe; they are for the public as well.
“A lot of people, they think they’re,” Waikiki Aquarium director Dr. Andrew Rossiter said. “Well, they are cute.”
Hsieh said she has had to come between people and seals many times, especially when the protective fences have not been put up yet.
“I always like, you know, I’ll block them if I have to, I guess, but usually when you yell out and they’re like, ‘What’s going on?’ Sometimes they can’t even see there is a seal, they think it’s a rock,” Hsieh said.
Dr. Rossiter added the fences do not stop everyone. He said he saw a tourist approach Rocky and her new pup on Saturday.
“With her two little toddlers, saying, ‘Do you want to go up and stroke him? Come on, let’s go,” Dr. Rossiter said. “That didn’t happen, I stopped that one. But yeah, people don’t really understand. They may look cute, but they’ve got very strong teeth and a very strong bite.”
Hawaiian monk seals are listed as an endangered species; NOAA said their population hovers around 1,500. Dr. Rossiter said their numbers around the populated Hawaiian Islands have been on a gradual upward trend recently, Hsieh agreed that folks need to stay away to keep it that way.
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“I’m not here just for photography, I’m just watching them and I’m happy. That’s all, I’m happy,” Hsieh said.