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Frequently Asked Questions About Hawaiian Monk Seals

monk seal

What is the Hawaiian name for Hawaiian Monk Seals?

Lio-holo-i-ka-uaua, which means “dog running in the rough seas,” or Na mea hulu, which means “the furry one.”

How big do Hawaiian Monk Seals get?

Big. Both male and female Monk Seals can grow to be the size of exceptionally curvy professional basketball players. Think Shaquille O’Neal at twice his weight. Monk Seals are 6-7 feet long and weigh from 400 to 600 pounds.

What do Hawaiian Monk Seals look like when they are born?

The answer to this is cute. Very cute. And also black. Adults on the other hand, are dark gray to brown on their back and light gray to yellowish brown on their belly. Many residents of the sea have this coloration – a dark back to avoid detection from above, and a lighter-colored stomach to blend in with the sky and avoid detection from below.

What are some scientific words commonly associated with the Hawaiian Monk Seal?   

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Mammalia
  • Order: Carnivora
  • Family: Phocidae
  • Genus: Monachus
  • Species: schauinsland

 Is it true that Hawaiian Monk Seals are the oldest species of seals in the world?

Yes, it is true. Monk Seals are the original seal. Evidence suggests that Monk Seals have been in the Hawaiian Islands for over 3 million years.

What is the lifespan of a Hawaiian Monk Seal?  

25 to 30 yrs.

Why do Hawaiian Monk Seals molt?

Monk Seals molt to get rid of Algae that slowly collects on their fur, over time. About once a year every Monk Seal replaces its old, algae-laden skin with a fresh, new silvery coat.

What do Hawaiian Monk Seals eat?

Fresh ocean-fare, like lobster, crab and fish. They generally hunt at depths of 60-300 feet. They eat about 3 to 8% of body weight everyday and convert the rest to fat. It is good to be a seal in Hawaii!

I think I see a Hawaiian Monk Seal. What should I do?

First, count yourself lucky. These beautiful seals rarely allow themselves to be seen. Second, remember to give Hawaiian Monk Seals their space. We ask our guests to join us in a spirit of conservation and respect when encountering sea creatures such as these. Though it is often possible to get closer to a turtle, a whale, or a Hawaiian Monk Seal, always give these rare sea creatures their space and let them go about their daily lives in peace. Keeping a little distance between you and our ocean residents is a great way to practice Malama ‘Aina,  the Native Hawaiian principle of living in harmony with the islands.


National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

The Marine Mammal Center

Hawaiian Independence and a Sustainable Future