Like pandas, Hawaiian monk seals are loved by many for their cute, cuddly appearance. And like pandas, the species is close to becoming extinct. With only 1,100 Hawaiian monk seals left in the world, scientists predict the seal is going to disappear in 50 to 100 years. Their extinction is only being accelerated by a spate of mysterious killings. According to a fascinating detective story over at the New York Times Magazine:
“Many in Hawaii were convinced that the entire history of the monk seal is based on a lie. Because the species was eradicated in the mains so long ago, people have lived on Kauai their entire lives without seeing a single monk seal until recently. Traditional Hawaiian knowledge carries great authority on the islands, and in every cranny of the culture where you’d expect to see monk seals, people saw none [...] The logical explanation, for many, was that the seal wasn’t actually native to Hawaii, that the government had brought the animals, in secret, to create jobs for scientists and push its environmentalist agenda…”.