One of the rarest species in the world, only 1,200 monk seals are thought to exist.

Rare Hawaiian Monk Seal Killed In Unexplained Propeller Accident

An exceedingly rare Hawaiian monk seal, considered to be one of the most endangered species in the world, was killed last week in an accident which remains unexplained, though it is clear the young animal was struck by a propeller.

The monk seal was found on a beach in Kauai, according to the Huffington Post, and was a one-year-old male. The 150-pound seal, which researchers had dubbed RF22, exhibited head trauma and lacerations on its face that are consistent with a propeller strike. While such an accident isn’t unheard of, the circumstances of the seal’s demise are exceedingly rare, according to NOAA’s health and response coordinator, David Schofield.

“It is perplexing that this animal died this way because they’re rather agile in the wild.”

The lacerations began at the front of the monk seal’s muzzle and continued towards the animal’s eye. According to Schofield, the seal’s remains were surrounded by a “lot of blood,” a factor that “is indicative of a propeller wound.” As KHON2 reports, Schofield also noted that the incident represents the first time in the 20 years that NOAA has tracked the seals that one has been killed by a boat strike.

Rachel Sprague, NOAA’s Hawaiian monk seal recovery coordinator, observed that the seal’s demise seemed to be nothing more than an accident. Still, for a species that counts just 1,200 living members, such a loss is a major blow, and she noted that observers can play a part in keeping the seals safe.

“We don’t have any reason to believe this is anything other than purely accidental but it is a good reminder that Hawaiian monk seals are wild animals and we can help keep them wild by not feeding them or giving them any interest to approach people.”

In late 2011, the Hawaiian monk seal population was dealt a further blow when several of the animals were killed in the space of just two months. As the Inquisitr previously reported, the killings came amid a growing sentiment among Hawaiian residents that the monk seals were not native to the region and didn’t belong there. While fishermen in the area were strongly prone to believe these “misguided” notions about the monk seals, it was not clear whether the anglers were responsible for the killings.

[Photo by Phil Mislinski / Getty Images]

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