Public reminded to keep safe distance as monk seal may become more aggressive over pup


Federal, state, and county agencies are urging the public to continue to stay away from a Hawaiian monk seal and her pup in Waikiki.

RH58, known as Rocky, gave birth on Kaimana Beach last month, and as she continues to nurse her offspring, marine resource experts predict she may become more aggressive.

“Like with anything else in the animal kingdom, or the wild kingdom, if you get between a mother and a pup of a monk seal, you run the risk of being in danger for your own personal safety,” said David Schofield, regional marine mammal response program coordinator, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Marine Fisheries Service.

The area has been roped off and so far, there have been no reports of people going past that boundary. But, officials continue to warn, the consequences could be dangerous.

“There have been two reported incidents, one here on Oahu where someone was bit in the arm out at Rabbit Island by a mother who was defending or protecting her pup,” Schofield said, “and on Kauai back in 2009, there was actually a report of a mother that bit, in the face and the arm, a woman. That person had to have several reconstructive surgeries.”

Experts predict Rocky and her pup will be at Kaimana for the next eight weeks or so until the pup weans. This also gives the pup time to acclimate once its mother leaves.

“Kamaaina and visitors are fortunate to have this opportunity to view a Hawaiian monk seal mom and pup, but these are wild and potentially dangerous animals, especially protective moms like Rocky,” said Kristen Kelly, program assistant with the DLNR Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR) Marine Wildlife Program. “Please put the safety of yourself and your family first. If you want to swim, we encourage you to take this opportunity to explore many of Oahu’s other beautiful beaches.”

Officials say volunteers have had to inform people on occasion who walk by and miss the warning signs.

There has also been some drone activity in the area. Officials remind the public that flying an aircraft within 1,000 feet of a marine mammal is prohibited under the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act.

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