Tag Archives: Hawaii

The Monk Seal


By the end of our Hawaiian vacation, we were looking forward to getting home to our pupper dawgs, Benny and Sophie:

Who wouldn’t want to come home to those sweet faces?

However, the island of Kuau’i has dogs of their own that need to be cared for. These “dogs” I’m referring to are the Hawaiian Monk Seals. The Hawaiian word for monk seal means “swimming dog” or “dog that runs in rough water”. We fell in love with these endangered creatures of the sea when we came a across them on the beach.

Of course, I’ve always known about endangered species, but never really gave them much thought. I guess I was just naive in thinking that “other” people took care of keeping animals safe so that their species would not become extinct. But after my encounter with them, I’m aiming to support their cause.

The Hawaiian Monk Seal was listed as endangered back in 1976, but the population is declining. There are only about 1100 alive today and according to this website, about 40 to 45 of them make their homes in the waters surrounding Kuau’i.

The first time I came across one was on one of our morning walks:

Hawaiian Monk Seal resting on the beach

The Hawaiian Monk Seal is a mammal and nocturnal hunter. They plop themselves on the beach during the day to rest. {We’ve only seen them singly, so I’m not sure if they ever travel together.} Luckily, they are protected by federal and state law. So whenever a monk seal makes its way on to the beach, a large area is staked off so that people do not approach it. These signs are posted:

We ladies came back to that beach in the late afternoon and the monk seal was still there – in the same place! We settled ourselves on the beach and since it wasn’t much of a swimming beach {and I forgot a book}, I spent my time watching the surfers and the monk seal. Occasionally he would move, scratch himself and sneeze. He reminded me so much of a dog! Utterly adorable.

Then, it happened… The monk seal was ready to return to the water. He woke up, inched his way closer to the water, hunched his back while taking a few deep breaths and let the waves take him in. It was the coolest sight to see!

Hawaii is very protective of its wildlife and vegetation. In fact, coming over, I felt like we were going to a foreign country having to fill out the agricultural form. But having such unique qualities, I can understand why they would want to protect this island. Any plants or produce must be certified before taking them to the mainland. We visited a nursery where plants were separated by whether they were certified or must remain on the island:

Certified Plants

In fact, my friend Jen {who watched our house and fur children while we were away} texted me that she wouldn’t be disappointed if a pineapple made its way into my bag and back to Minnesota. When I mentioned this to our friends who visit Kuau’i often, they pretty much just laughed at me.

“Well, you have to get one that is certified. They’ve got them in the airport. But they’ll be the same Dole pineapples you’ll get back home.”

Sure enough, I checked the airport upon departure. There was one 3-pack of certified Dole pineapples left in the cooler. And the cost? $34.99. NOT KIDDING. Understandably, Jen didn’t get a pineapple escorted by us directly from Hawaii. It seemed silly to pay that price for something we could get at home.

Furthermore, if you are thinking of moving to Hawaii with your pooch, you’ll need to do some major planning. Rumor has it that dogs coming from the mainland to the island must be quarantined for about six months. Talk about protective! We did talk with a woman who had a six-month-old Shih Tzu on the beach. {I had to say hello! It was near the end of our trip and little Lola reminded me of Sophie as a puppy!} She said that Lola was island-born so there was no need for quarantine. However, she knows someone who is planning to move to Hawaii and said that there are a lot of hoops to jump through to bring their dog. The Humane Society does have a process now that can speed up the quarantine; however, everything has to work out perfectly including specific shots and tests before flying the pooch to Hawaii and all within the right time frame. Still, there are things that are completely out of your control. Say, on your flight over, your plane needs to be redirected due to a medical emergency. If the plane touches down in any other area, you have to start all over again.

As a dog lover, I would find that incredibly difficult. As an animal lover and a person in complete and utter awe of Hawaii’s exotic beauty, I can understand wanting to be extra careful to protect that, too.

On our last day, Rob finally had the opportunity to see a Hawaiian Monk Seal resting on the beach:

This one was much bigger. Although our hosts who visit often said that it was still small in size.

Monk Seals can weigh up to 600 pounds!

Let sleeping seals lie…

You can see some better close-up pictures of Hawaiian Monk Seals that better capture their dog-like personality here, here and here.

We fell in love with these cute, yet majestic critters. Hearing the story of their declining population saddened us. So we made a donation toward their cause in honor of our friends Mike and Lisa, who invited us to join them on this trip.

Won’t you consider making a donation, too?

You can do so on the websites of the Marine Mammal Center and Kuau’i Monk Seal Watch Program.