Pup Update

Pup-date! As you know from previous postings, four Hawaiian monk seal pups were born on Kauai in 2015. Here is a synopsis of where they are today and how they are doing.

hawaiian monk seal pup on kauai

Photo credit: G. Langley

The oldest pup, RG13, is now 7 months old and has become a somewhat elusive north shore seal with sightings ranging from Papa’a to Ha’ena. A snorkeler saw her underwater at Tunnels last month looking healthy, normal, and most importantly behaving like a wild seal that made no attempt to interact with the swimmer (and vice versa!).

Entangled seal

The next pup, RG22, is now 6 months old and has moved to the south shore where he was sighted last month wearing (entangled) someone’s swim goggles! They fell off within a couple of days and caused no harm. Since then he has been sighted routinely hauling-out along the rocks in the Makahuena Point area.

Photo credit: J. Thomton

Photo credit: J. Thomton

The third pup, RG28, has not been sighted for several months, however this is not uncommon as these young seals often tuck into quiet rocky locations and are not sighted very often. For example, another young Kauai seal, RN30, was born in 2013 and completely fell off our radar for 16 months (between May 8, 2014 until September 27, 2015) but has now been sighted weekly looking extremely healthy. We hope the same is true for RG28.

hawaiian monk seal pup on kauai

Photo credit: G. Langley

The youngest pup, RG58, is still only 4 months old and is sticking closely to his birth beach on the north shore. He was a really big pup measuring almost as big around as he is was long, like a beach ball with flippers. This thick layer of blubber gives a naive pup a great energetic advantage while learning to forage and fend for itself during the critical time after weaning from their moms. As you can see from this recent photo, he continues to maintain a healthy body condition. You know what they say about marine mammals…blubber is beautiful!

Hooked Seals

hawaiian monk seal with fish hook in its mouthBack in April of this year, a juvenile male, new to Kauai, showed up on the Kapaa shoreline and was tagged by our Kauai team as R1KD (1KD in left rear flipper, 1KG in the right rear flipper). The very next day he was found with a circle hook embedded in his left cheek. We spent the next week searching for this seal and finally were able to cut the line attached to the hook. We were unable to get a capture crew there quickly enough to remove the hook. Over the next 4 months, this seal was spotted occasionally on the remote Na Pali coastline looking healthy and strong, but still hooked. Last week we sent a team via boat to the Na Pali coast specifically to scout for this seal, but we were unfortunately unsuccessful. The fact that his body condition has been reported as good indicates that the hook is not affecting his ability to forage. Seals can typically shed hooks themselves, however 4 months is a bit longer than most so we remain on alert. If you see this seal please call the Kauai hotline at 808-651-7668.
hawaiian monk seal with fish hook in its mouth

Photo credit: D. Lee

Another small seal, N1AA, was tagged on Niihau in 2014 and bears the first black tag specific for Niihau seals. He has been sighted at various locations on Kauai over the past year including the west side where he hauled out with a hook protruding from his muzzle in July. We were able to quickly deploy a de-hooking team, and to easily remove the hook. Most hooks we encounter are barbed, so the technique we use is to cut the hook in half and remove the two halves rather than attempt to back the barb out in reverse. In this case, the hook was barbed originally, but had corroded away and made the de-hooking process very fast and painless for the seal. If you fish, please consider using barbless hooks and encourage others to do the same.
removing hook from hawaiian monk seal's mouth

Photo credit: D. Lee

The 2015 pupping season has concluded (we’ve been surprised by new unknown pregnant seals in the past though!) and we are pleased to report that all four seals have weaned and are doing extremely well. Here’s the recap:
Mom ID Pup ID Birth Date `Bleach # # Nursing Days Pup Sex
RK13 RG13 4/15/2015 V13 43 Female
RK22 RG22 5/15/2015 V22 34 Male
RO28 RG28 5/26/2015 V29 42 Male
RH58 RG58 7/13/2015 V58 43 Male


Field Report: Another Pup!

We are proud to announce that we have another pup. Fifteen-year-old RH58 arrived from Oahu on Sunday, July 12th. In the midst of stormy weather, on Monday morning, she was found concealed in naupaka bushes with a nice healthy pup–that has since been confirmed male. This is RH58’s ninth pup born on Kauai since 2006. While she has spent her adult life foraging the waters around and hauling out on the beaches of Oahu, like many monk seals, RH58 returns to her own natal beach to birth, as well.

Hawaiian monk seal

Photo credit: Rogers

Our third pup born to RO28 has weaned, and his mother returned to Oahu a few days later, accompanied by an untagged male seal, Temp 319. This third weaned pup is tagged G28/G29 and goes by the ID name of RG28. When hauled out, he likes to hang out in rocks. These weaned pups seek rocks and objects to nestle against, possibly missing mom, and are vulnerable to people and loose dogs. They are very naive and curious, as all young are when they are learning about their environment and how to feed and socialize. Unfortunately their “cuteness” gets them in trouble when people approach them, try to pet or swim with them, and–most dangerous for taming a wild animal–try to feed them.

hawaiian monk seal, pup, pk3, RG28

Photo credit: Bloy

Field Report: Pup Update

We have three pups in three stages.

Hawaiian monk seal flippers up

Photo credit: V. Bloy

G13 weaned after 43 days, and is exploring the reef, spending much of her time in the water like this–sticking her head under rocks and crevices. She’s also sporting spiffy flipper tags–G12/G13. This is the time of her life where she’s figuring out what’s good to eat. She’s likely snacking on things such as sea cucumbers that won’t continue to be part of her regular diet. G13 has a good store of fat. Hunger is not yet driving her to forage far and wide. She continues to hang out near her natal beach but is starting to range a bit more. As she gets more confidence, stronger, and hungrier, she will forage outside the reef farther off-shore, and we’ll find her hauled out on beaches elsewhere on Kaua`i.

Hawaiian monk seal pup V22RK22 weaned PK2 after 41 days of nursing. Likewise, he is healthy and plump and sticks close to the beach where he was born. The two weaners have even been sighted rolling in the shallow water together. Shortly after PK2 was weaned, he was bleach tagged on his side as “V22.” Soon, he’ll get flipper tags.

Both weaners are often visited on the beach by various males, including R8HY, RK05, T320, among others.

Hawaiian monk seal mom and pupRO28 continues to nurse PK3, who can get quite vocal when he’s hungry, and has even been known to vocalize while he’s nursing–as well as, fall asleep while receiving his regular nutritious nourishment. His girth is nearly the same as his mother’s, as she has not feeding during these past four weeks. This is normal monk seal biology. It’s her own hunger that will finally force 028 to wean her pup. When she does, PK3 will be on his own, swimming the seas and mastering seal life.

hawaiian monk seal mom and pup

Photo credit: Rogers

One. On tax day, April 15, 2015, we welcomed our first Kauai pup of the year when RK13 gave birth to a big, healthy female. Volunteer Gary Langley reported the pup nursed several times during her first morning of life, and while still a few hours old, she took her first swim. All during PK1’s first week of life, the pair was visited by several males RK05, RV18 and a new-to-us monk seal, Temp 310, who chased all others the away. RK13 is an older, productive female that has only pupped once on Kauai. She usually pups on Ni’ihau.

hawaiian monk seal and pup swimming

Photo credit: Rogers

Two. On May 15, 2015, we welcomed PK2 to Kauai, born to RK22, making this her fifth pup in five years. She’s sure turned into a good mother after a rough start in which she abandoned two pups two years in a row. But she can be a little wary, and as with all mothers in the animal kingdom, can be quite protective of her offspring. A few wildlife viewing measures are always important to keep in mind when near RK22 (and any other monk seals): Give them plenty of space; stay out of their line of sight; position yourself downwind; and camouflage yourself by staying low to the ground in and amongst bushes when possible. The goal is to watch without disturbing.

hawaiian monk seal mom and pup

Photo credit: Rogers

Three. On May 26, 2015, we welcomed PK3 to Kauai, born to RO28 who arrived from Oahu only days before. This young mother was born on Kauai but likes to spend her adult days on Oahu–until it’s time to pup. Then, she returns to her natal beach. Like RK22, this mother is very protective and has been aggressive towards people approaching her on the beach or in the water, so we request people give her a wide berth. Amazingly, volunteer Julie Honnert was on the beach with her video camera running when the big event happened. Check out this amazing video!

So, three, so far. And we expect more. Stay tuned. And, as always, if you’d like to volunteer with the Hawaiian Monk Seal Conservation Hui on Kauai, please email kauaiseals@gmail.com. And if you run across any seals on the beach, please take a quick health assessment and report any sightings to the hotline–808-651-7668.


RN44 De-Hooked!

A two year old male, RN44, was discovered at Waipake on April 3 with a large ulua hook in his left cheek. A heavy monofilament leader with swivel was attached to the hook and extended 18″ outside RN44’s body. Unfortunately, RN44 was resting on a large lava bench where he could not be safely captured, so we had to wait until he hauled up in a safe location.

hawaiian monk seal with fish hook in cheek

Photo credit: Langley

RN44 was re-sighted on April 8. He attempted to haul-out several times along Waipake Beach, however the leader kept getting caught under his body and pulling on the hook, creating obvious discomfort. This action prevented him from hauling-out.

He was more successful on the morning of April 10, where RN44 was found sleeping several feet above the wave wash at the south end of Lepeuli Beach. A visual examination revealed the hook’s barb had pierced his cheek. A team assembled, safely caught him, and using a bolt cutters, successfully removed the hook and leader.

Loss of RB24

We are saddened to report that RB24 has passed away.

RB24 had been a seal of concern that PIRO and PIFSC had been closely monitoring for the last few months. She was one of the four seals brought into temporary captivity during a tugboat oil spill in January. In early March, she miscarried her second pregnancy. During the last few months, RB24 had frequently been reported logging in the waters off Ko`olina on O`ahu. After close observation, she was eventually brought into captivity for assessment and rehabilitation. Shortly thereafter, she passed away. A necropsy was immediately performed.

Results of the necropsy were released this week.

It appears that mortality was caused by Toxoplasma gondii (see below) infection that affected the brain, lungs, fat, heart and other organs. The Toxoplasma parasites were widespread throughout her body, but where most severe, they led to inflammation in the brain and severe tissue degradation in the blubber and internal fat stores. The inflammation seen within the blubber was likely quite painful and explains why RB24 had such a reluctance to haul out or move around. The infection in the lungs led to a series of inflammatory processes that made it difficult for RB24 to distribute oxygen to her tissues, including those of her unborn pup. That lack of oxygen, in addition to the placental damage caused by Toxoplasma, explain why she aborted the fetus. Ultimately, RB24 died of respiratory failure because of the inflammation caused by the parasites in the lung. There is little chance that a Toxoplasma infection of this severity would have been treatable.

RB24 was born to RK12 at Maha’ulepu on Kauai in 2007, the first of several pups RK12 was to have at Maha’ulepu under the shadow of the famous mountain, Ha’upu. As a pup RB24 survived a dog attack that left scars on the left side of her face. She spent much of her sub-adult years on the east side of Kauai, especially at Lae Nani one of her favorite places to rest. As an adult she moved to Oahu, occasionally returning to Kauai to molt or just to visit.



Hawaiian monk seal

RB24. Photo credit: Mary Miyashiro

Hawaiian monk seal known as B24 with satellite tag

B24. Photo credit: Mary Miyashiro.

B24 scars L head


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