Introducing the Rare Hawaiian Monk Seal

Neomonachus Schauinslandi, more commonly known as the Hawaiian Monk Seal, is not only one of the rarest seals found in U.S. waters but one of the most endangered species on the planet. These beautiful animals are native to Hawaii and are primarily found inhabiting the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.  


While most seals like to keep things cold, the Hawaiian monk seal is downright tropical and prefers the warm waters and sandy beaches found on the coasts of the Hawaiian Islands. They spend most of their time in the water but like any good beach-goer, they like to rest on land and occasionally make their way onto the beaches of Ko Olina.


These adorable seals, who are often compared to dogs, are carnivorous mammals that can grow to be 5-7 feet long and between 350 and 600 pounds! They may live to be 25-30 years old. The monk seal earned its name for the wrinkly folds around their necks that look rather like a monk’s cowl. The females are slightly larger on average than the males. They are mostly silvery-gray in color. 


They like to dine on fish and other seafood they collect from the ocean floor. Crabs and lobster, eels, octopus and squid are their favorites. They are particularly fond of the deep-water coral reefs off the coasts where they can forage for food using their vibrissae, or face full of whiskers, to find prey in the murky water. They will sometimes dive over 900 feet to find food. True beach-loving animals, the adult seals prefer to eat at night, so they can sunbathe during the day. 


Hawaiian monk seals breed offshore but pups are born on the atolls and beaches. Mom has only one pup per year and she is very dedicated to it for the first stage of their life, even going so far as to stop eating to stay with her young for about 40 days while nursing. Her baby is on its own once weaned, which due to food shortages and environmental factors, is a very dangerous time for the adolescent monk seals. They are black in color before their first molting and about 30 pounds at birth, but by the time they are on their own, the pups may weigh 200 pounds! 

Endangered Status

Hawaiian monk seals are considered critically endangered. According to the Minnesota Zoo, who have five of them on exhibit, there are less than 1,100 left in the wild. It is suspected that at least one other variety of monk seal is already extinct. The Hawaiian monk seal has suffered from a loss of coastal habitat as well as being accidentally caught in fishing nets and hunted by tiger sharks. Their numbers are expected to drop beneath 1000 in the next few years. 

At Ola Properties, we do our bit to help by providing vacation packages to the Minnesota Zoo for charity auctions and by purchasing specially packaged cookies.  Part of the proceeds from the cookies are donated to Monk Seal Foundation. We then use the cookies as welcome gifts for our guests.

Hawaiian monk seals are beautiful and interesting creatures that are worth seeing and worth saving. They are just one of the many unique treasures that Hawaii has to offer.