Hawaiian Monk Seals, as cute as they are, serve a higher purpose than just putting smiles on the faces of passerby people.
Unfortunately, these seals are also critically endangered, and could very possibly become extinct if conservation efforts are not implemented.
So what makes the Hawaiian Monk Seal so important compared to other seals, and why should conservation efforts go towards preserving them?
Hawaii’s First Native Sea Mammal
About 1100 monk seals left in the wild, its demise would make a greater historic impact than the demise of a species that had not welcomed humans onto the islands of Hawaii.
It is also important to note that the Monk Seal does not just hold a historic position in Hawaii, but also worldwide.
The Hawaiian Monk Seal is one of two species of seals that have existed since ancient times, the other being the critically endangered Mediterranean Monk Seal.
Its extinction would not only impact the history of Hawaii, but also the history of our natural planet.
The Monk Seal and Hawaiian Culture
Because the Hawaiian Monk Seal has been present on and around the islands since before humans, they are intertwined with traditional native Hawaiian culture.
Historical research of Hawaiian culture found mentions of Hawaiian Monk Seals in native literature and oral stories. The Monk Seal had also been referenced as a traditional resource.
The Hawaiian Monk Seal does not just hold cultural and historical significance. Its contribution to the Hawaiian ecosystem is imperative in its stability.
Hawaiian Monk Seals are generalist carnivorous feeder, meaning that their diet consists of a wide variety of creatures.
This also means that they help keep numerous populations under control by feeding on them. Such populations include crustaceans, fish, and squids.
Being an apex predator in Hawaii, the seals are largely responsible for keeping these populations under control, ensuring that they do not increase to dangerous levels.
Without them, the Hawaiian ecosystem would become disorganized and eventually unstable.
One creature can make the difference between a healthy ecosystem and one that does not function correctly at all: in the case of Hawaii, the critically endangered Monk Seal may very well be that creature.
Being a critically endangered species, the Hawaiian Monk Seal may have a more limited existence. However, there are ways to preserve this important species, and many organizations have already embarked on conservation efforts.
Even so, as the Monk Seal is not well known in areas of the world apart from Hawaii, there is a limited public following regarding this species.
By ensuring that educational actions are taken in addition to traditional conservation efforts, the Hawaiian Monk Seal may stand a chance.
Educational efforts may include enlightening the public about the importance of the Hawaiian Monk Seal regarding its natural history, its cultural significance, and its imperative role in the Hawaiian ecosystem.