Happy New Year from the Kauai Hawaiian Monk Seal Conservation Hui!! It’s been a busy time of year for us and the seals!
R6FY, a juvenile male first sighted in July 2010, was seen several times in November around PMRF. He looks thin and close to molting – very green. When Hawaiian monk seals molt, they lose their entire outer layer of skin and fur. Scientists have found that the seals also have elevated levels of stress hormones during this once-a-year event. He was observed several times to be exhibiting an interesting behavior – kind of a repeated “swallowing” as he fell asleep after stirring. R6FY does not seem to be in distress, nor does he appear to have any obstructions to eating or breathing. We are not alarmed about this little guy, but are certainly keeping close eye on him. If you see him, please photograph him; take a good look at his body for molting, which usually starts around the face and other extremities; and report him to us immediately.
We had several sightings this fall of a large untagged female seal on the north shore, with bleach mark V23. Bleach marks are applied to the fur of Hawaiian monk seals so that we can identify them from a distance. The mark is made with the same kind of hair bleach we humans use, and we are specially trained and permitted to apply the bleach without even waking up the seal! She has had this bleach number for the past year, and since she molted, Mimi re-applied it in November. V23 did roll onto her fresh bleach, but her mark seems to have stuck, as she was sighted recently as “V23.”
Our youngest seals, RT12 and RA36, have been seen quite frequently at Larsen’s and Aliomanu beaches, respectively. We have even had a couple of sightings of an untagged male weaned pup on the east side in the past couple of months. We suspect that this is RK30′s latest Miloli’i pup, born on April 17, 2010, but since we were never able to flipper-tag him, we can’t be sure. Mimi was able to bleach him in December – now he is V014! All are looking very healthy.
Still no new pup! In mid-December, after getting a good look at expectant mom RK12 in person, we predict that she will not likely give birth until January. Nonetheless, we have had the “maternity truck” packed and ready to go for over a week, and we’ve been keeping an eye on RK12’s usual birth sites.
As a holiday gift to everyone from the Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center’s Monk Seal Research Program, here is some of the exciting information we are learning from the cell phone tags applied to four seals in 2010! These tags are helping us understand how the seals in the main Hawaiian islands use their habitat. Enjoy!