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In Hawaii in 2018, a baby seal was spotted playing with a dangerous “toy,” a recklessly discarded knife. Little Manu‘iwa, an endangered Hawaiian monk seal, was spotted with the knife by a team dedicated to monitoring his health.

Manu’iwa had just recently been weaned from his mother on a Hawaii Island, the Hawaiian Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) reported. Since then, the baby’s health and growth has been monitored by the staff from Ke Kai Ola, a hospital operated by The Marine Mammal Center at Kailua-Kona and officers from the DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE). Recently, the team observing the seal noticed that he was playing with a bright orange object. As they kept watching the baby closely, they realized that the object Manu’iwa was holding in his mouth was a knife.

“There was real concern that the seal pup might swallow the knife,” said the DOCARE officer who captured the incident in a video. “It’s a reminder to all of us to properly dispose of our trash and not to leave it on Hawai‘i’s beaches or in the ocean.”

As the Marine Center commented, “[T]his is a serious illustration of why beach cleanups and other efforts to keep plastic debris out of our oceans and rivers. We’ve rescued and performed surgery on monk seals and sea lions who ingested fishing gear (never a knife… yet…).”

After a while, the baby finally dropped the knife under the rock, and the dangerous object was retrieved by the team. Unfortunately, items that can be swallowed by animals like seals and cause serious damage or even death are only too numerous in our waterways.

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