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Here’s a pretty amazing fact: More than ten thousand species of plants and animals reside in Hawaii, and nine thousand of them don’t live anywhere else in the world! Unfortunately, an alarming number is considered endangered.
Hawaiian monk seals got their name because their round heads are covered with short hairs, making them look a little like medieval friars. They live mostly on Kauai, but they appear from time to time on Oahu and southeastern Hawaii, where they can be seen napping alone on secluded beaches. (Most seals like to hang out in crowds, but not these guys.) If you do see one, don’t approach it or try to attract its attention. When officials are made aware of one’s presence on a beach, yellow strips are set up to protect it from your curiosity.
The Hawaiian green sea turtle, at about three and a half feet in length, is the largest hard-shelled sea turtle in the world. They often climb out of the water onto beaches to bask in the sun. They seem to especially like the black-sand Punaluu Beach on the south shore of the Big Island. Don’t touch, if you see one! Your body oils can damage their shells.
The nene goose is the official state bird of Hawaii and the rarest goose in the world. While still endangered, the nene has bred well in captivity and has begun to proliferate again in the wild. Most of them are seen in and near Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island, where they can hang out among the wild turkeys, pheasants and peacocks. Consider it good luck if and when you encounter one of those treasured creatures, but please keep your distance. We want to keep them around.