Kuaihelani is home to one of rarest marine mammals on earth! Approximately 70 live on the Refuge. For the latest 2022 Hawaiian archipelago population counts click here!
Hawaiian name: ilio-holo-i-ka-uaua, na mea hulu (literally “dog running through rough seas”)
Scientific name: Monachus schauinslandi
This is one of the rarest marine mammals in the world. Part of the “true seal” family (Phocidae), they are one of only two remaining monk seal species; the other is the Mediterranean monk seal. A third species, the Caribbean monk seal, is extinct.
Hunted to the brink of extinction in the late 19th century, Hawaiian monk seals have been declining since modern surveys began. Tiger sharks and Galapagos sharks prey on Hawaiian monk seals. Other threats include food limitations in Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, especially for juveniles and sub-adults; entanglement in marine debris; human interactions (especially in the Main Hawaiian Islands), including bycatch in fishing gear, mother-pup disturbance on beaches; loss of haul-out and pupping beaches due to erosion in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands; disease outbreaks; male aggression towards females; and low genetic diversity.