An unidentified woman in Hawaii had to be rescued after being attacked by a monk seal that was protecting its recently-birthed pups in the area. Wildlife officials had previously warned beachgoers to avoid the area to give the seal some space.
At about 8 am Sunday in Waikiki on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, the woman, a 60-year-old teacher from California, entered the restricted area and began swimming. Once she was about 20 feet out, the seal came out to meet her with force. Despite desperately attempting to swim back to shore, the seal wouldn’t relent and continued to charge at the woman.
Horrified bystanders screamed at the woman to “Get out!” as the woman bobbed around in the water. Thankfully, a man in a kayak was able to pull her to safety.
She was evaluated by medical services and found to have “suffered cuts to her face, back and arm, but was not seriously injured,” according to KITV-4, a local news station.
Despite the fact that harassing a monk seal is a felony in the state of Hawaii, officials do not believe that the teacher intentionally provoked the incident and will not be facing any state charges. However, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will be investigating the incident and may or may not be recommending federal charges. Monk seals are on the Endangered Species list, with around only 1,600 of them remaining.
The husband of the woman was filming her swim from their condo on shore. He was horrified to see the seal come charging at her, and was convinced that by the time he reached the ground from the 12th floor, she would be dead.
“My wife had a swim cap on, and her head was in the water when both seals appeared. She could not hear 50 or so people on the beach screaming for swimmers to get out of the water. She then stands up and hears the people screaming and waving at her,” he explained.
“I’m thinking she’s going to die, by the time I get down to the beach. When I got there, three rescuers, including one in an outrigger canoe were bringing her to shore, while the seals were swimming toward them again,” the man recalled.
As for the victim, she is still mentally and physically recovering from the attack.
“Neither of us could sleep last night. Every time I closed my eyes, I was seeing the mother seal’s mouth. I’m a teacher and I care a lot about the environment and wildlife. I teach conservation to my students. I’ve collected discarded fishing hooks and brought them to shore and three years ago I saw a sea turtle entangled in fishing line and reported it,” she said.
Investigators noted that nobody from Ocean Safety was in the guard tower at the time of the attack, and the woman may have felt quite safe about swimming in the area because an estimated 10 people had been swimming with no seal attacks occurring.
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