Authorities are conducting an investigation after a TikTok video that went viral showed a woman touching an endangered Hawaiian monk seal during her honeymoon with her husband in Hawaii, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported on Tuesday.
A now-viral TikTok video shows a woman touching the endangered animal while on the beach in Kauai with her husband. The seal raised its head and snapped at the woman, who then ran away. The video was posted on Instagram by user hhhviral, and it has been viewed more than 54,000 times as of Wednesday afternoon.
According to the husband, Stephen, it was the first time that he and his wife, Lakyn, had seen the animal, and they reportedly did not know the laws and enforcement around the endangered species. The couple has received death threats and asked that their last names be withheld, the news outlet reported.
“We didn’t see no signs. We didn’t know anything but I know that’s no excuse,” Stephen said in an interview with the news outlet. “We are deeply sorry. We love Hawaii and the culture. We didn’t mean to offend anyone. We respect the culture.”
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Hawaiian monk seal is one of the world’s most endangered species. The species has been on the decline for the last 60 years.
The Star-Advertiser noted that if someone touches the endangered animal, it’s considered a Class C felony under federal and state laws, and penalties can include up to $50,000 in fines or up to five years in jail.
Stephen told the Star-Advertiser that authorities contacted the couple on Sunday and fined the pair an undisclosed sum.
“At this time, this incident is under investigation by NOAA's Office of Law Enforcement and it is longstanding NOAA practice not to comment on ongoing investigations,” Dominic Andrews, a spokesman for NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement, told The Hill in a statement.