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Monk seal makes fast, long journey across Hawaii

HONOLULU (AP) — Researchers say an endangered Hawaiian monk seal has made an exceptionally fast and long swim across the archipelago.

The 6-year-old female seal made her way from Kure Atoll in the uninhabited Northwestern Hawaiian Islands to the North Shore of Oahu — a trip of about 1,300 miles. She made the grueling swim in only a month, landing on Oahu sometime last week.

Michelle Barbieri, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program chief, said there is data that shows more than a dozen seals have made trips from the remote northern islands to the main islands in recent decades.

“What’s impressive about (this seal) is she made the trip in about a month, where other seals are more likely to make it over the course of several years,” Barbieri said in a statement Monday.

Researchers don’t yet have a full view of the species’ movements.

“A 2015 study, looking back 30-years, shows seals mostly moving between neighboring islands and less often long distances,” Barbieri said. “The ability of these animals to island-hop is what has allowed them to colonize new areas over time.”

There are about 1,400 monk seals left in the wild with about 1,100 living in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.