‘Senseless act’: Community seeks answers after endangered monk seal found dead

A killing of a Hawaiian monk seal has left many in disbelief. (Source: KHNL)
Published: Jun. 8, 2023 at 4:57 PM EDT
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HONOLULU (KHNL/Gray News) - Officials are looking for the person responsible after an endangered Hawaiian monk seal was found dead on the coast of a Hawaii island.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of Law Enforcement is offering $5,000 for information to prosecute the suspect in the death of the seal.

The agency said seal RQ76, also known as Malama, was found dead on March 12 at Ohikilolo Beach in Oahu. Her cause of death was ruled as caused by blunt force trauma.

Efforts are also being made to increase the reward.

Attorney Michael Wheeler was born in Maui and raised on the mainland. He comes to Hawaii every three months and recently learned of the monk seal’s death.

“When I read that, I just thought that that was way too low to represent an incentive to represent, you know, the passing of this rescue Hawaiian monk seal,” he said.

Wheeler is among the hundreds of people who have commented on social media about the killing of the seal, who was just under a year old.

“It’s really a tragic situation and a senseless act,” Diana Kramer, NOAA Pacific Islands regional stranding coordinator, said. “While I can’t speculate on the motive for this particular killing, I can tell you that the broad community across Hawaii values and supports these native species.”

Wheeler said people need to know how precious the animals are.

“If you’re fortunate enough to see a Hawaiian monk seal, you always respect and give them distance,” Wheeler said. “It’s tragic that you know, someone would do this horrific act on such a beautiful creature.”

Wheeler created a GoFundMe to help increase the reward to catch Malama’s killer and it has already raised $2,000.

However, NOAA said they can’t accept that money.

NOAA Fisheries Office of Law Enforcement released the following statement:

“We appreciate the outpouring of public concern and support on this case. We want to be clear that we are not able to accept funds from outside parties and cannot verify or take responsibility for any organized efforts outside of our existing reward.”

Wheeler said he asked NOAA for guidance on where the donations can go and hopes to give the money to an organization that cares for or studies the seals.

“Just want to give back and give good mana,” Wheeler said.