As long as social media has existed, people have been doing incredibly stupid things to try to gain attention on social media—whether that consists of risking life, limb, or even possible legal repercussions. Case in point, former TikTok user Eric Mustevoy (he has since removed his account) has come under intense public scrutiny after posting a video in which a man approaches a monk seal and slaps it on the behind, to the obvious distress of the animal. The highly endangered species of seals are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act and Endangered Species Act.
The video took place on a beach in West Oahu, Hawaii, supposedly one month before being uploaded to the social platform, which Mustevoy then set the clip to the song “Smack That” by Akon. Although the original clip itself did not initially go viral, that changed after it was reposted to the popular @hungryhunhgryhawaiian Instagram account. It has since been viewed over 150,000 times.
For his part, Mustevoy (perhaps conveniently) claims that he had nothing to do with slapping the monk seal.
“I just witnessed some guy doing it and captured it on camera,” he later told Maui Now news website. “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 wouldnʻt be stupid to post it if I did it. Because I know itʻs illegal. But I was wrong [for] posting it.”
The NOAA Fisheries, Pacific Islands Regional Office has since released a statement, writing that the agency cannot comment on an ongoing investigation.
However, it adds, “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.”
Meanwhile, Mustevoy’s friend who he tagged in the original TikTok post, Alex Tsvor, was less than thrilled about his perceived involvement in the monk seal video—which he makes clear he had nothing to do with.
“I have no idea why that Eric kid tagged me under his post,” Tsvor told Maui Now. “I never been to Hawaii, and I enjoy and respect nature.”