One of Oahu’s best known seals was found dead Thursday on the island’s Windward side, officials have confirmed.

R5AY — commonly known as “Honey Girl” — was at least 22 years old and had given birth to at least 11 pups, according to various reports.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries spokeswoman Jolene Lau said the agency is responding to R5AY’s death. Monk seals can live more than 30 years although most don’t, according to the agency.

A Hawaiian monk seal and pup nap on East Island in July. NOAA Fisheries is responding to the death of a separate, prominent mother seal, R5AY, on Oahu’s Windward side. Alana Eagle/Civil Beat

COVID-19 restrictions prevented a post-mortem exam to determine the cause of death, a state Department of Land and Natural Resources release stated.

The release added, however, that toxoplasmosis, a disease spread by feral cats, and drowning in illegal fishing nets are the leading causes of death for monk seals in the main Hawaiian islands.

Honey Girl had been hooked multiple times by fishing gear over the years. One such incident in 2012 left the prominent monk seal emaciated and nearly starved, requiring emergency surgery and a rehabilitation stint at the Waikiki Aquarium.

A 2017 children’s book, “Honey Girl: The Hawaiian Monk Seal,” told the story of  R5AY’s survival, rehabilitation and release back into the ocean.

DLNR and NOAA officials transported the seal’s body to Kualoa Ranch for burial, where a traditional pule, or “blessing,” was performed by a cultural practitioner.

At least three of Honey Girl’s pups are believed to have died from getting hooked or entangled in fishing gear, according to NOAA Fisheries.

The Hawaiian Monk Seal is critically endangered — it’s one of the most endangered seal species in the world.


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