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The video shows a man approaching the monk seal on Oʻahu beach, in Hawaii, before slapping it and running away as the seal turns around, clearly agitated.
The video was originally posted on TikTok by user Eric Mustevoy, with the Akon song 'Smack That' dubbed over it.
However, the video blew up after it was shared on Instagram page @hungruhungryhawaiian, which has 276,000 followers.
The man in the video was widely condemned by social media users, many of whom called for the perpetrator to be fined.
Eric has since deleted his TikTok account and apologised for sharing the video, though he claimed it was a stranger who slapped the seal.
Speaking to Maui Now, he said: "That was not me that did that. I just witnessed some guy doing it and captured it on camera.
"I was just recording the video and I noticed some people taking pics with it and this guy just ran and did it. I would never do that in the first place. And I wouldn't be stupid to post it if I did it, because I know it's illegal. But I was wrong for posting it."
His original video had a caption that read, '@alextsvor got me into tiktok', but Alex - who is an acquaintance of Eric's - has denied having anything to do with the clip.
Speaking to Maui Now, he said: "I have no idea why that Eric kid tagged me under his post. I've never been to Hawaii, and I enjoy and respect nature."
The Hawaiian monk seal has become endangered due to a range of threats, from fishing net entanglements to disease, and it is illegal to disturb or harm them in both federal and state law.
The NOAA Fisheries, Pacific Islands Regional Office said in a statement: "We cannot comment on an ongoing investigation. However, we want to remind the public that Hawaiian monk seals are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act and Endangered Species Act, and we recommend everyone follow our viewing guidelines for monk seals and other marine wildlife.
"These guidelines have been developed to maximise human safety, seal safety, and legal compliance. To report suspected monk seal protection violations or to provide information that may be relevant to an ongoing investigation, please call the NOAA Office of Law Enforcement hotline at: (800) 853-1964."
Featured Image Credit: Instagram/hungryhungryhawaiian
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