Scroll Top

Monk Seals and Toxoplasmosis

We’re looking at the connections between humans, cats, monk seals — and the disease toxoplasmosis. Monk seals have lived in Hawaiʻi for over three million years, but their population has been severely depleted by human influences and habitat loss. Death from toxoplasmosis—a disease caused by a parasite spread through cat feces—has added another challenge to the recovery of the Hawaiian monk seal population.

We talk to Michelle Barbieri and Stacie Robinson from the NOAA Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program, Angela Amlin, Hawaiian Monk Seal Recovery Coordinator for the National Marine Fisheries Service, and Steph Kendrick, Director of Community Engagement for the Hawaiian Humane Society—all working together to help solve the problem of free-roaming cats in Hawaiʻi.

Watch the trailer for Season 9, Episode 5 on Vimeo, on YouTube, or on Vimeo with English Subtitles.

Watch the related episode Managing Cats & Saving Native Wildlife on Maui Season 9, Episode 5.

Full Episode

Or watch the episode on YouTube!

(With archived researcher comments from our premiere on September 1st, 2022.)

This episode is also available with English subtitles on Vimeo.

Maitau lenei mea i le Samoa ile Vimeo poʻo le YouTube.

Flyer for Voice of the Sea Monk Seals & Toxoplasmosis YouTube Premiere September 2022
Curriculum Connections:

Hawaiian Monk Seals


Marine Mammal Center

Additional Resources:
How can you help?

You can help prevent toxoplasmosis from affecting monk seals and other wild animals by doing your part to reduce the spread of T. gondii eggs.

  •  Keeping cats exclusively indoors improves their longevity, protects native birds from cat predation, and is the best way to prevent the spread of toxoplasmosis.
  • Make sure to spay and neuter your cats—while this won’t prevent them from contracting or spreading T. gondii parasites, it will curb unwanted litters of kittens.
  • It is illegal in Hawai‘i to abandon unwanted cats or kittens outdoors or at feral cat colonies; take them to a shelter where they may be adopted.
  • Please do not feed feral cats, as this may perpetuate colony growth and further abandonment, ultimately increasing the amount of T. gondii eggs spread into the environment.

Select a season of Voice of the Sea

Contact information:
Kanesa Seraphin, Ph.D.

Curriculum Research & Development Group at UH Manoa logo     Blue Hawaii Sea grant Logo   college of education at UH Manoa logo