Swimmer attacked by endangered Hawaiian monk seal mother protecting her pup, video shows

A woman was injured while swimming in Hawaii after she was attacked by an endangered Hawaiian monk seal officials say was protecting her newborn pup.

The incident happened Sunday morning at Kaimana Beach in Waikiki on the island of O’ahu. The woman, who was not identified, appeared to swim about 20 feet into the water when the monk seal appeared.

The seal charged the woman as onlookers repeatedly yelled “get out.” A kayaker came by and rescued the woman, and two onlookers carried her to the beach to receive medical care.

“If it wasn’t for the kayak guy paddling over to save her, she would have got like chomped,” witness Curt Otsuka told Hawaii News Now.

Hawaii Marine Animal Response said in a statement that a Hawaiian monk seal had given birth to a pup about two weeks ago in the area, and officials said they have been monitoring the two animals’ activity since.

They added that the woman had been warned before that seal moms are “protective, can be dangerous, and have inflicted serious wounds on nearby swimmers.” There are also warning signs and barriers on the beach.

“We continue to warn people not to engage in in-water activities when a monk seal mother with a pup are in the area and to stay at least 150 feet from mother seals with pups,” Hawaii Marine Animal Response said. “Continued vigilance is advised for several more weeks until the mother monk seal weans her pup.”

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The Hawaiian monk seal is one of the most endangered seal species in the world, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries. Endemic to the Hawaiian islands and, on rare occasions, Johnston Atoll – a remote Pacific island nearly 1,000 miles southwest of Hawaii – the population is estimated at about 1,570 seals, and it only recently began to increase after six decades of decline.

The mother seal is actually a famous one, known as Rocky. She gained fame in 2017 after giving birth on a busy beach in Waikiki. Now 22 years old, she has given birth to 14 pups, NOAA Fisheries says.

Officials said the woman was taken to a local hospital.

Rocky and her pup are expected to be in the area for five to seven weeks. Officials said their behavior “seems normal” after the incident.

Follow Jordan Mendoza on Twitter: @jordan_mendoza5.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Hawaiian monk seal mother attacks swimmer on O’ahu, video shows

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