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Okay, so the Pinnipednesday Preview was of a different species than this week's Pinnipednesday. We'll get there, I promise!

The Hawaiian Monk Seal (Monachus schauinslandi) is one of only two species of monk seal in the world, and can only be found in the Hawaiian islands. It is critically endangered and conservation-reliant (needing wildlife management intervention even when the population is currently self-sustaining), and is the only seal species that is native to Hawaii. In the Hawaiian language, it is called 'llio holo i ka uaua, which means "dog that runs through rough water." There are only about 11,000 individuals left in the world.


Adult female Hawaiian Monk Seals tend to be larger than the males, averaging about 8 feet (2.4 meters) in body length and weighing 600 pounds (270 kg). Males are slightly smaller at 7 feet (2.1 meters) and about 400 pounds (180 kg). They have two-toned coats, with a gray color on their backs and a paler whitish color on their bellies, though these colors can change during their yearly molt to a brown color on their backs and a yellow color on their bellies. They are sometimes seen with a red or green tinge as well, due to growths of algae.

The diet of the Hawaiian Monk Seal is mostly comprised of the rich and varied marine life in the deep water coral beds, like squid, lobsters, octopus, and different kinds of fish. Though it lives in a tropical environment and has generally the same kind of blubber layer other seal species use to keep themselves warm in arctic environments, it has adapted to life in paradise by basking on the rocky shores and sandy beaches during the day, and hunting in the water at night.


Hawaiian Monk Seal pups are born with black coats that they shed after they're weaned at six weeks. Mating and pupping season takes place between March and June, and males become extremely aggressive during this time. They compete with each other for the right to mate with females, but this aggression can lead to the death of juveniles and adult females as a result of a behavior called "mobbing." This behavior has led to a male-bias in overall population, so protecting female pups and juveniles is crucial to maintaining the species.


The natural predators of Hawaiian Monk Seals are sharks, particularly tiger sharks. Many Hawaiian Monk Seals show scars of these encounters, and even those who survive the initial attack may eventually die of infected wounds. Competition with sharks and other apex predators reduces the amount of available food for younger seals. Hawaii, working conjunction with federal and NGO organizations, has done a lot to try to slow and eventually reverse the decline in the Hawaiian Monk Seal population. It has been designated as Hawaii's state mammal, and the recently designated Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument has consolidated already protected refuges and reserves, creating the largest protected marine area in the world.


Source for all images used in this post.

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