Saturday, May 5, 2001

This monk seal got the royal treatment yesterday after it showed
up to sleep the day away at Sandy Beach. Officials placed a rope
barrier around it, and signs warned beach-goers against bothering
it. Monk seals are an endangered species.

Monk seal gets special
treatment at Sandy Beach

By Rosemarie Bernardo
and Craig Gima

A 5-foot female monk seal spent most of yesterday sunbathing on Sandy Beach, providing a quiet distraction for bodysurfers and beach-goers.

Lifeguard Robert Dorr watched the monk seal swim past bodysurfers at about 10 a.m.

"It checked everyone out," said Door.

Then it disappeared as a wave churned up the sand on the beach, and it "just popped up on the shore. It was pretty cool," he said.

Dorr said lifeguards warned people to stay away from the animal, which is protected by federal law.

"One guy tried to touch it, and it almost bit him," Dorr said. "Other than that, it's been sleeping all day."

Officials of the National Marine Fisheries Services placed a rope barricade around the monk seal to protect it. Whenever a monk seal is spotted on a Hawaii beach, officials try to keep the public away from the endangered mammal. Signs were posted yesterday requesting beach-goers not to come near the monk seal.

"It appears to be fine," said Delores Clark, public information officer of the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration.

Dorr said the seal seemed to be asleep all day.

Clark said it is common to find monk seals along beaches in Hawaii. Within the last 90 days, there have been two monk seals spotted at Sandy Beach Park and one at Makapuu Beach Park.

Throughout the year, she said, officials at the Fisheries Services get called at least once a week about monk seals being spotted on a beach.

Most Hawaiian monk seals live in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

At Sandy Beach late yesterday afternoon, beach-goer Baerbell Miller observed the seal from the barricade.

"Every endangered species is a real fascination. We're lucky to be able to witness and enjoy it," said Miller.

"It's interesting. You don't have to pay to see it," said Sam Loungraj, as he made his way to the showers.

Some bodyboarders who frequent Sandy Beach were nonchalant about the sunbathing seal.

Danny Muszynski and his friends focused more on looking for the perfect wave than observing the seal.

When asked which was better -- the surf or the seal -- he and his friends quickly replied, "The surf."

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