Hawaii’s Department of Natural Resources released footage this week of a monk seal pup brandishing a knife. It’s equal parts menacing, adorable, and depressing as hell.
The video was shot on the island of Hawaii, and features a recently-weaned monk seal pup, named Manu‘iwa by locals. On first viewing, my heart fluttered a bit because seals are the best. Good sea dog.
That quickly gave way to a tinge of fear as I stared into the flinty eyes of a knife-wielding seal pup. Fear, in turn, soon flipped to sadness.
It’s not like this seal fashioned its knife in some seal weapons shop arming the resistance. This seal found a piece of trash humans failed to get rid of properly. Not cool!
Nor does a seal know how to hold a knife because, well, it’s a goddamn seal. It could easily injure itself, or swallow the knife and die.
“There was real concern that the seal pup might swallow the knife,” the natural resources officer who captured the video said in a release. “It’s a reminder to all of us to properly dispose of our trash and not to leave it on Hawai‘i’s beaches or in the ocean.”
All this is even more depressing given how special monk seals are. They’re the only seal endemic to Hawaii. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the seals “are considered a ‘living fossil’ because of their distinct evolutionary lineage,” having been isolated from other seal species for 15 million years.
They’re also among the most endangered species in the world with only 1,200 individuals left in the wild. According to the Marine Mammal Center, monk seals were “hunted to the brink of extinction in the late 19th century.” Though you can’t hunt them anymore, their numbers are still dropping by about four percent per year.
That’s largely driven by losses in the northwest Hawaiian islands due to disappearing food sources, getting snared in marine trash, and loss of land-based habitat due to rising sea levels. The last thing these seals need is getting inadvertently stabbed to death. So properly dispose of your trash, you miscreants.