Endangered monk seals to make debut at Minnesota Zoo


How about a slice of Hawaii this Memorial Day weekend?

On May 23, the Minnesota Zoo will become the only place in the continental U.S. the public can see Hawaiian monk seals, according to a press release.

The animals are critically endangered, with an estimated 1,100 of them left. Zoo officials say the species' cousin, the Caribbean monk seal, was declared extinct in 2008.

The five seals making their debut in Minnesota are described as rescued animals who can't be released back into the wild due to physical disabilities.

However, zoo president Lee Ehmke says they will "serve as ambassadors" of their relatives and help draw attention to issues facing troubled marine wildlife.

They'll be part of the zoo's revamped "Discovery Bay" exhibit.

The seals – Nani, Koa, Ola, Paki, and Opua – previously called Seaworld San Antonio home, but will be permanent residents of the Minnesota Zoo, the Pioneer Press reports.

Here's more information about the animals and their debut.

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