Monachus schauinslandi, an endangered species of earless seal in the Phocidae family that is endemic to the Hawaiian Islands. This seal posed for me like a seasoned professional model.
I was so thrilled this seal stuck around for photos before swimming away.
The very next morning a seal was resting on the beach where I took my morning walks. I got these amazing photos again using the 20x optical zoom.
Mediterranean monk seal. A third monk seal species--the Caribbean monk seal--is extinct.
Monk seals are named for the folds of skin on their head that look like a monk's hood and because they spend most of their time alone or in small groups.
These photos were taken during low tide.
As the tide was coming in the seal swam back into the ocean.
According to Wikipedia: "The Hawaiian monk seal is critically endangered, although its cousin species the Mediterranean monk seal (M. monachus) is even rarer, and the Caribbean monk seal (M. tropicalis), last sighted in the 1950s, was officially declared extinct in June 2008. The population of Hawaiian monk seals is in decline. In 2010, it was estimated that only 1100 individuals remained. The larger population that inhabits the northwest islands is declining.
Seals nearly disappeared from the main Hawaiian Islands, but the population has begun to recover. The growing population there was approximately 150 as of 2004. Individuals have been sighted in surf breaks and on beaches in Kauaʻi, Niʻihau and Maui. In early June 2010, two seals hauled out on Oʻahu's popular Waikiki beach. Seals have hauled out at O'ahu's Turtle Bay, and again beached at Waikiki on March 4, 2011, by the Moana Hotel. Yet another adult came ashore for a rest next to the breakwater in Kapiolani Park Waikiki on the morning of 11 December 2012, after first being spotted traveling west along the reef break from the Aquarium side of the Park. In 2006, twelve pups were born in the main Hawaiian Islands, rising to thirteen in 2007, and eighteen in 2008. As of 2008 43 pups had been counted in the main Hawaiian islands.
The Hawaiian monk seal was officially designated as an endangered species on November 23, 1976, and is now protected by the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act. It is illegal to kill, capture or harass a Hawaiian monk seal. Even with these protections, human activity along Hawaii's fragile coastlines (and in the world at large) still provides many stressors."
Dear Readers, have you ever seen a Hawaii monk seal? Have you ever seen a seal in real life?