Animal rights activists confirm the dead monk seal at Mokuleia was known as Benny
Federal wildlife agencies have confirmed that a dead monk seal found in Mokuleia on Oahu’s north shore was known to many on the islands as “Benny.”
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Wednesday that the dead seal reported June 17 was RE74, or Benny. While NOAA uses alphanumeric characters to tag and identify seals, community volunteers often give nicknames to the seals they see regularly.
“RE74 has been loved by many in the community and held a special place in our hearts as we watched it over the years,” NOAA said in a blog post. “RE74 has a long history with NOAA Fisheries and our partners working to protect the Hawaiian monk seal.”
According to NOAA, Benny was born on Kauai in August 2002 and spent the early years of his life there before becoming a regular on Oahu in 2005.
He has been spotted frequently at various locations around Oahu including Kaena Point, Mokuleia, Turtle Bay, Ewa Beach, Nanakuli, Pokai Bay, Manana Island and Ala Moana.
NOAA has twice helped save Benny — performing life-saving surgeries to remove fish hooks he accidentally swallowed twice — once in 2014 and again in 2016. NOAA believes he died at least nine times during his lifetime was on the hook.
By collecting samples from Benny and data from a temporary satellite tag he wore shortly after one of the fishhook operations, NOAA was able to gain scientific insight into the endangered Hawaiian monk seal.
According to NOAA, he was the first Hawaiian monk seal to have its genome sequenced. He was also one of the first seals in the main Hawaiian Islands to be vaccinated against the morbillivirus.
A post-mortem was performed, according to NOAA, but scientists could not determine a definite cause of death. NOAA is still awaiting the results of a tissue sample analysis.
Hawaiian monk seals are an endangered species protected by state and federal laws.
NOAA encourages the public to keep a respectful distance from seals and to report seal sightings and marine animals in distress to their hotline at 888-256-9840.
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