The usually quiet summer days on Oahu’s North Shore had been disturbed earlier this week…by the arrival of a cute seal at Sunset Beach. It caused an especially large commotion among the surf town because it looked nothing like the Hawaiian monk seals we’re so used to seeing on our sandy shores.
And as it turns out, it wasn’t. The weak and emaciated seal is a northern fur seal, whose home is thousands of miles away in waters around the Aleutian Islands and California. It’s a “very unusual situation,” according to Mary Harbold of the Honolulu Zoo, as stated in a City and County of Honolulu release. In fact, this is the first recorded wild fur seal to reach Hawaiian waters.The northern fur seal was being cared for temporarily at the Honolulu Zoo.
So how did the female visitor get so far south? Some think it could have hitchhiked on some debris from the 2011 Japan tsunami or on a cargo ship. We’ll never really know. What we do know is that it was taken to the Honolulu Zoo, where it was placed in quarantine to protect other native mammals. Northern fur seals may carry a virus called morbillvirus, which is similar to measles and could quickly shrink the Hawaiian monk seal population, if affected.
It’s now on the way to the Marine Mammal Center in California for rehabilitation. If you come across a seal on the beach, it’s best to admire it from afar, as it will most likely be an endangered Hawaiian monk seal. Volunteers usually set up protective barriers around the beached seal once they’re notified of its arrival.
Photo Credit: City and County of Honolulu