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Reward Offered After 'Hateful Act' Involving Young Seal

Endangered Hawaiian monk seal Malama was found dead of blunt-force trauma on Oahu
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 8, 2023 12:30 PM CDT
$5K Reward Offered in Killing of Young Seal
Malama, a Hawaiian monk seal found dead with "severe blunt-force trauma" on Oahu in March.   (NOAA)

An endangered Hawaiian monk seal rescued as a severely malnourished pup was released back into the wild and subsequently killed by a human, officials say. The female juvenile known as Malama, officially dubbed RQ76, was found dead on Oahu's Ohikilolo Beach on March 12, just two months after her release, according to a statement from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The seal, just under a year old, died from "severe blunt-force trauma" in what appears to have been an intentional killing, according to officials, who are offering a $5,000 reward for information that helps solve the case.

"We're asking for help from anyone who may have seen or heard anything related to the killing of this endangered animal," said Frank Giaretto of NOAA's Office of Law Enforcement, per USA Today. He added the attack was "not only a violation of federal law but a hateful act against all the people who call Hawaii their home." Hawaiian monk seals are found only in the Hawaiian islands. State and federal laws protect the population of about 1,570 seals.

Malama was just 2 months old when officials whisked the malnourished pup from Oahu's Manana Island Seabird Sanctuary to the Marine Mammal Center's monk seal hospital on the Big Island last August, noting she was unlikely to survive without intervention, per the Washington Post. A team "provided months of dedicated care to rehabilitate her, getting her back up to a healthy weight" before her return to Oahu in January, the NOAA said. "She headed right for the water" and quickly caught a sea cucumber, per the Post.

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Her killing only weeks later outraged many in the community, including attorney Michael Wheeler. "It's tragic that, you know, someone would do this horrific act on such a beautiful creature," he tells Hawaii News Now. Though Wheeler raised $2,700 to add to the reward, the NOAA said it's "not able to accept funds from outside parties." Wheeler says the money will go to a group that cares for the endangered seals instead. (More seals stories.)

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