HONOLULU (KHON2) — There was a tense moment at Kaimana Beach in Waikiki on Friday, May 7, when two dogs approached Hawaiian monk seal Kaiwi and her pup as they were resting on the shoreline.
Waikiki resident Joyce Hsieh witnessed the incident.
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She says she was at the beach around 6:30 p.m. when two dogs rushed up on Kaiwi and her pup.
“Out of the blue, two dogs run around them, and they got too close to the monk seal and mom barked and the pup didn’t wake up,” she said.
She says the two dogs were owned by two separate people. The dogs came together and started playing on the beach before getting closer to the seals.
Hsieh says she enjoys taking videos and photos of monk seals and even volunteers to make sure people — and other animals — stay clear of the endangered species.
She was shocked when one canine approached Kaiwi and the other went towards the sleeping pup.
“I was yelling too, but I was in shock, I wanted to make sure the dogs didn’t start biting them, if they did, I would go up to them, I’m sure some people would have too,” she said. “Dogs are not allowed on the beach, there’s a sign that says no dogs.”
Dogs are supposed to be on a leash at City and County of Honolulu parks and beaches, and there are some beaches on Oahu where dogs are not allowed at all.
Witnesses say police were called and showed up shortly after the incident occurred. One family had already left before police arrived and the other family was seen speaking with police.
Hsieh says this is not the first time dogs have gotten close to monk seals.
A three-year-old monk seal was transported from Kauai to Hawaii Island in February after suffering serious wounds from a dog attack. NOAA’s Marine Wildlife Hotline says that they routinely receive reports of off-leash dogs harassing monk seals on the Garden Isle.
Harassing a Hawaiian monk seal is a felony and punishable by jail time and fines.
Several dogs were seen at Kaimana Beach on Saturday, May 8, before Honolulu police arrived to let people know that they can not bring dogs in the area.
“I’m angry, yeah, I’m angry but this gets the word out,” Hsieh said.
Officials want people to know Kaiwi’s pup will be moving around more.
In a statement, NOAA said:
“Thankfully, this incident did not result in any injuries, but it’s an important reminder to be on the lookout for Kaiwi and pup and give them space—both on land and in the water.
“If you’re out with your dog in the vicinity of monk seals, especially moms and pups, please keep the dog on a leash and stay alert. Your dog may be trained, but monk seals are not, and even well-trained dogs can be hard to control when they see a monk seal. The pair will start moving around much more now that the pup is gaining strength. In addition, young pups haven’t developed a wariness of dogs yet, and seal moms can be very protective of their pups. Safety is key, and we want to avoid potential injuries, and also disease transmission, to all involved.”
NOAA reminds people to call police if they witness any dog-seal interactions in progress. Please call the NOAA Marine Wildlife Hotline at (888) 256-9840 if any human-seal interactions or seal sightings are reported. Hawaiian monk seals are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act — disturbing a monk seal can result in a large fine.