Local and national nonprofit and non-governmental organizations are offering $50,000 for information about the killings of five Hawaiian seals, with the February suspicious death of seal R4DP near ‘Ele‘ele on Kaua‘i making the matter even more urgent, according to a news release from the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.
Since 2011, these groups have offered $10,000 rewards for information leading to the arrest and conviction of people involved in the killing of Hawaiian monk seals. These deaths are among 11 reported monk seal killings since 2009 that remain open and unsolved.
“We are deeply indebted to The Humane Society of the United States, the Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust, Conservation Council for Hawai‘i and the Center for Biological Diversity, which once again have stepped forward to try and help solve the senseless and outrageous killings of one of Hawai‘i’s iconic, naturally and culturally important marine mammals,” DLNR Chair Suzanne Case said.
The DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement along with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of Law Enforcement continue to seek witnesses and information on the suspicious death of the 15-year-old female seal, tagged as R4DP.
“We are still waiting for final lab results but everything indicates that R4DP was in good health and did not have any diseases,” said Angela Amlin, the Hawaiian monk seal recovery coordinator for NOAA’s Pacific Islands Regional Office.
DOCARE Enforcement Chief Robert Farrell said these may be “serious crimes” with significant fines and jail time punishable under both federal and state laws.
DOCARE officers on Kaua‘i are working closely with NOAA/OLE agents to gather information and we hope anyone who has information about the death of R4DP or any of the other outstanding cases will come forward,” Farrell said.
Keith Dane, Hawai‘i policy advisor for The Humane Society of the United States, said the magnitude of the reward for information about the suspicious deaths of monk seals reflects how much the community values these critically endangered animals and demands justice for those who would seek to harm them.
“If someone intentionally killed this defenseless endangered Hawaiian Monk Seal as she lay resting on the beach they did so with complete disregard for regulations and the reasons behind them,” said Ben Callison, president of the Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust. “This is an egregious crime against wildlife, and is particularly reprehensible when it involves an endangered species struggling to make a comeback. We must work together to ensure any and all who were involved are held fully accountable”
Marjorie Ziegler, executive director of the Conservation Council for Hawai’i, said she is “deeply saddened” by the killings.
“For our own sake and the good of the planet, we must learn to coexist with other species that share our island home. If you know anything about any of these killings, please speak up,” Ziegles said. CCH is a membership nonprofit dedicated to protecting native Hawaiian plants, animals and ecosystems.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization. Dr. Loyal Mehrhoff is the organization’s Honolulu-based endangered species recovery director.
“Monk seals are still highly endangered and a very special species,” Mehrhoff said. “It is important to protect our seals from malicious acts.”
Hawaiian monk seals are endemic to Hawai‘i — a native species found nowhere else in the world. The species is critically endangered with an estimated 1,400 remaining in the wild.
Anyone with information about these deaths should call the NOAA OLE hotline at 1-800-853-1964 or the statewide DOCARE hotline at 1-855-DLNR-TIP or 643-DLNR (3567).