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Endangered Hawaiian monk seal deaths investigated as crimes

HONOLULU — Federal and state officials are investigating the suspicious deaths of two endangered monk seals on Molokai.

The seals were found dead April 27 on the west side of the island.

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Examinations revealed both died as a result of human-inflicted trauma, wildlife officials said.

There have been seven suspicious monk seal deaths on Molokai since 2009.

Both seals found dead last month were observed in good health in previous days and neither had any diseases, according to the officials.

“There is a strong, deep-rooted tradition of natural resources stewardship on Molokai, and we know that news of these deaths will be keenly felt by many on the island,” said the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Fisheries division in a statement. “We are grateful to the community and our response network partners for assisting with recovery and transportation of the seals.”

On April 25, NOAA also reported the death of a 3-year-old male monk seal on Kauai. The cause of that seal’s death remains unknown.

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There are only about 1,400 Hawaiian monk seals left in the wild. Killing a monk seal is a federal and state crime.

NOAA’s Fisheries Office of Law Enforcement and the Hawaii Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement are leading the investigation.

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