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Hawaiian Monk Seal

Frans Lanting

The Hawaiian monk seal, with folds of skin reminiscent of a monk’s hood, dives hundreds of feet to feed–nearly the length of one or two football fields! Found only in the Hawaiian Islands (mostly in the more isolated, undeveloped islands and atolls of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands) and numbering less than 1,300 individuals, this seal is one of the rarest mammals in the world. The monk seal uses isolated beaches for resting, molting, and rearing its young, and pups need to spend their first six weeks onshore with their mothers.

Climate Change Impacts

Rising sea levels from global warming spell trouble for the highly endangered Hawaiian monk seal. Since almost all of the beaches it relies on are located on tiny, low-lying islands and atolls, even a moderate rise in sea levels can flood and wash out its habitat. Because most of the beaches on the main Hawaiian islands have already been developed, the monk seal does not have many alternative sites left to survive.