The painting reference photography of the Hawaiian Honu and the Hawaiian Monk Seal (Monachus schauinslandi,is by scientist and photographer, Chad Yoshinaga of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Honolulu, Hawai’i. This giclee was printed by Paul McCormick in Hawai’i, and inspected, signed and numbered by Calley O’Neill.
Turtles are in serious trouble. Though they have survived for about 220 million years and once roamed the Earth with the dinosaurs, half of all turtle and tortoise species are now threatened with extinction. Populations are shrinking around the world. No other vertebrate group including birds, mammals, amphibians, or sharks – are more endangered. Unfortunately, despite global protection, the serious threats still remain.
Their major threats include hunting and egg harvesting, habitat destruction, pollution, especially chemical pollution, nets and boat strikes. Some populations are stable and some are threatened (Hawaiian population) endangered or rare and declining.
Because it is a federal offense to come within 10 feet, harm or harass an individual turtle in any way, the Hawaiian honu, loved by locals and visitors alike, has made a remarkable comeback.
The endemic Hawaiian Monk Seal is called ‘ilio-holo-i-ka-uaua (dog that runs in rough water) is critically endangered. The only other living monk seal species is the critically endangered Mediterranean monk seal, as the Caribbean monk seal or sea wolf was driven to extinction by overhunting of the seals for oil and overfishing of the seals’ food sources. The last one was sighted in 1952, and the species declared extinct in 2008.
The major threats include high juvenile mortality due to starvation from reduced populations of prey (primarily fish and lobster) entanglement in marine debris and shark predation.
Education and awareness are the most powerful tools for promoting conservation and protection of the seals and their habitats.