The Minnesota Zoo is committed to connecting people, animals and the natural world to save wildlife and we are working on project with great partners all over the world to fulfill this mission. With wildlife conservation at the forefront of what the Zoo does, it was decided that Discovery Bay would become home to a group of non-releasable critically endangered Hawaiian monk seals. These five females not only are getting amazing care from a dedicated team of zookeepers, but they are able to help spread the message of the many challenges their wild counterparts are facing in their native waters of Hawaii.

Hawaiian monk seals are the only marine mammals that live solely in North America waters. This makes taking care of their natural habitat extremely important, as they are found nowhere else on Earth. Their population in the wild has been rapidly declining since the 1950’s and currently less than 1,100 seals remaining in the wild. Their main threats include pup mortality, natural predators (such as sharks) and humans – with recreational/commercial fishing and human crowding on beaches causing extremely negative impacts on their survival rates.

Fortunately for the Hawaiian monk seal, there are several organizations, including the Minnesota Zoo, working together to help protect these incredible animals and their natural habitat along the Hawaiian islands. National Geographic and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have teamed up to learn more about what these seals do in their natural environments, which will then hopefully inform us on how we can better protect them. To do this, they are safely attaching Crittercams to wild Hawaiian monk seals to record where they are going, what they are eating, etc. The Minnesota Zoo is currently raising money at our admission gates to help fund these Crittercams. To date, the Zoo has raised over $18,100.00 toward our goal of $20,000 by the end of December 2015. During your next visit to the Minnesota Zoo, please consider making a small (or large) donation to help save Hawaiian monk seals in the wild. Together we can make a big difference.

Fun Fact: Seals have a lot of whiskers, known as vibrissae, which help them find prey in murky or deep water. And even though it looks like they have no ears, they actually have small ear holes that function well both in and out of water.