2013-05-08. Who Would Kill a Monk Seal?

posted May 11, 2013, 3:41 PM by Alan Gould
 For GSS Losing Biodiversity chapter 1. Excerpt:  The Hawaiian monk seal has wiry whiskers and the deep, round eyes of an apologetic child. ...The seals can grow to seven feet long and weigh 450 pounds. ... Monk seals are easy targets. After the Polynesians landed in Hawaii, about 1,500 years ago, the animals mostly vanished, slaughtered for meat or oil or scared off by the settlers’ dogs. But the species quietly survived in the Leeward Islands, northwest of the main Hawaiian chain — a remote archipelago, .... There are now about 900 monk seals in the Leewards, and the population has been shrinking for 25 years, making the seal among the world’s most imperiled marine mammals. The monk seal was designated an endangered species in 1976. Around that time, however, a few monk seals began trekking back into the main Hawaiian Islands — “the mains” — and started having pups. These pioneers came on their own, oblivious to the sprawling federal project just getting under way to help them. Even now, recovering the species is projected to cost $378 million and take 54 years. ...The animals have been met by many islanders with a convoluted mix of resentment and spite. This fury has led to what the government is calling a string of “suspicious deaths.”   .... Jon Mooallem, New York Times Magazine. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/12/magazine/who-would-kill-a-monk-seal.html?ref=magazine&_r=1&