The Kauai team logged 303 seal sightings this month (294 in Mar, 249 in Feb, 252 in Jan, 239 in Dec, 243 in Nov). This included 46 individually identified seals.


·       Second Kauai pup of the year was born this past month. Mother is Kauai born RH92, who has become an Oahu seal, even giving birth on Oahu last year. She surprised us by returning to her birth beach this year and giving birth to PK2. The pup is thriving.

·        Juvenile Niihau seal was flipper-tagged as R7AJ on the beach at PMRF, and further trained the PMRF.


·       Adult female RKA2 found logging for 5 days at Aliomanu Beach the previous month. We closely monitored and assessed with a pole camera. Head swollen with bite marks on head, neck, and flippers. Suspect dog attack. Successfully administered antibiotics while the seal was logging in the water. Administered a second dose along with pain meds while the seal was hauled out 6 days later. Seal appeared to be recovering. UPDATE: Finally resighted her fully healed and in good health after 5 weeks with no sightings (since the second antibiotic injection).

·       RF30 and PK1, she pup weaned the pup after 39 days of nursing and has remained in natal area. Seal was tagged as RS30, 2 weeks after weaning, somewhate small ax girth of 98 cm, but very healthy and strong.


·       Keoki’s Paradise restaurant hosted a volunteer appreciation luncheon in Poipu and 35 volunteers attended and enjoyed a free lunch buffet prepared just for them. It was part of volunteer appreciation month and a nice gesture by Keoki’s Paradise.

RF30 weaned PK1 at 39 days on April 27th. A week later, he was bleach-marked as V30. Last Friday, he was officially tagged S30 (left flipper) and S31 (right flipper). He will be known in NOAA’s scientific database as RS30. Two weeks after weaning, his axilliary girth measured 98 cm and his length from tip of the nose to tip of the tail was 124 centimeters. He’s lost some weight since RF30 weaned him and as he figures out the good bits to eat in the ocean, but he’s certainly not the smallest weaner of record. At the same time that RS30 was flipper-tagged, he was vaccinated against morbillivirus, a tissue sample collected, and a micro-chip pit tag (much like the kind used with dogs and cats) was inserted. And all that got done in less than five minutes.

Here are a couple videos provided by volunteers illustrating the development of this young Hawaiian monk seal.

Another surprise visitor—a.k.a. Hawaiian monk seal pup—arrived on Kauai’s north shore last week. Announcing PK2, Kauai’s second pup of 2023. This one was born to RH92, who was born in nearly the same location in 2016. After being regularly reported on Kauai’s east side for several years, RH92 moved to Oahu in 2019 where she seemed to settle on being an “urban” seal after pupping at Kahuku, Oahu last year.

Photo credit: K. Rogers

While many female Hawaiian monk seals pup on the beach they were born, some, like RH92, are “pioneer seals,” moving and reproducing on other islands, which helps to disperse the seals among the main Hawaiian islands. By doing so, these pioneering seals are repopulating places the species once inhabited long ago.

Before moving to Oahu, RH92 kept busy:

  • A few months after weaning, some fishermen contacted DOCARE (Department of Conservation and Resources Enforcement), because a loose dog had attacked a small monk seal. An officer immediately responded, found the dog’s owner, and issued a citation. The seal, with multiple puncture wounds, turned out to be RH92 and was given antibiotics. Thankfully, her small punctures did not become infected and healed quickly.
  • Soon thereafter, RH92 ventured to Kauai’s East Side where, as a yearling, she began feeding on fish scraps in a canal. Because two other yearlings had drowned, possibly in nets, in the same canal in previous years, she was translocated her to the West Side of the island. Meanwhile, signs near the canal and boat launch were installed and fishers asked not to dump fish scraps in the area. Luckily, fishers complied, because RH92 quickly made her way back to the East Side within two weeks later. Since then, there’s been no problems.
  • Too, RH92 experienced a severe wound on her head from a large cookie cutter shark bite that exposed her skull. But she quickly healed.

RH92 was born to another seal with a storied past—RK22.

Photo credit: Honnert

Possibly born in 2001, RK22 abandoned two pups two years in a row before sticking around and mothering. Then, RK22 became known as a “tough love” mother, because she would take her pups swimming at an early age, even leading them outside the protection of the lagoon and beyond the reef into deeper water when they were just one or two weeks old. Over eleven years, RK22 was known to give birth to eight pups. It’s possible the years she didn’t pup on Kauai that she pupped at Niihau. Here’s a recap of her known pups:

  • 2007: After contracting pneumonia during five days of trying to reunite it with RK22, pup was euthanized.
  • 2008: After an attempt to reunite pup with RK22, he was raised for a time in captivity, then released at Molokai. But after developing cataracts, he was re-captured and now lives at Waikiki Aquarium.
  • 2011: RK54. Died after ingesting a fishhook in 2012.
  • 2012: RL14. (Update to come.)
  • 2014: RF22. Died of boat strike in 2015.
  • 2015: RG22. Last known to be hauling out around Oahu.
  • 2016: RH92. Gave birth to second pup in April 2023.
  • 2017: RJ22. Died from drowning, most likely a gillnet fishing entanglement, in September 2017.

RK22 weaned RJ22, her last known pup July 2017, and she was last seen on Kauai in November 2017. She hasn’t been reported since. 

Last year, we shared some of the more unique sleeping places of Hawaiian monk seals reported over the years on Kauai. Those beach spots included alongside logs, chaise lounges, picnic tables, beach mats, and blocks of concrete.

According to NOAA, “[Hawaiian monk seals] usually sleep on beaches, sometimes for days at a time. They also occasionally sleep in small underwater caves.”

Hawaiian monk seals belong to the family Phocidae. Known as “true seals,” phocids are characterized by having no external ears. Another true seal, the elephant seal, was recently revealed to sleep while diving.

According to Science Daily, “The new findings, published April 20 in Science, show that while elephant seals may spend 10 hours a day sleeping on the beach during the breeding season, they average just 2 hours of sleep per day when they are at sea on months-long foraging trips. They sleep for about 10 minutes at a time during deep, 30-minute dives, often spiraling downward while fast asleep, and sometimes lying motionless on the seafloor.”

This video explains:

In one extreme case, a 2010, a Hawaiian monk seal (RO12) was recorded going on 2,000-mile open-ocean journey. While Hawaiian monk seal biology isn’t quite as extreme as elephant seals—they may spend days at sea but not months—could monk seals, too, sleep while diving?

First-time Mom RF30 continues to be an attentive mother while PK1 grows and develops into a healthy (nearly) one-month-old Hawaiian monk seal pup. He’s losing his black natal coat and spending more and more time swimming. All good signs.

Mom and pup have also attracted curious visitors—male monk seals. It’s not uncommon for males to show up on the beach soon after mothers give birth. Sometimes more than one male will haul out at the same time. Typically, all attention is focused on the mom. Perhaps the males know that soon, the female will go into estrus, and she’ll be ready for mating. But while mothers are with their pups, they usually want nothing to do with any visiting male.

Not unexpected, RF30 has attracted the attention of an Hawaiian monk seal male—RN30. And RF30 did not roll out the welcome mat. In fact, the two tussled for quite a while on several occasions. At times, as these photos show, the pup was in the midst of it all. 

During these episodes—sometimes in the shallow water and sometimes on the beach—there is quite a show of teeth and jaw snapping and snot flying and grunting and sand flinging. A fray. There are rarely any injuries and none were known to occur among RF30, RN30, and PK1. In fact, after one particularly long encounter that was reported to extend more than two hours, the two adults formed a kind of truce and both took naps on the beach twenty or thirty feet apart. 

Here are a series of photos illustrating these kinds of encounters. 

Update: The Kauai team logged 294 seal sightings this month (249 in Feb, 252 in Jan, 239 in Dec, 243 in Nov, 277 in Oct). This included 40 individually identified seals.


·       Niihau seal (J/F) Temp615, first found March 3 with wounded right fore-flipper. Assessed wound/seal behavior and consulted with NOAA biologists and vet. Decided to let wound heal on its own and not administer with antibiotics. The seal remained in the area has fully healed.

·       New pup born on the north shore to RF30. Pup is thriving.

·       Adult female RKA2 found logging for 5 days at Aliomanu. She was closely monitored and assessed with a pole camera. Head swollen with bite marks on head, neck, and flippers. Source of injuries unknown. Successfully administered antibiotics while seal was logging in the water. Administered a second dose along with pain meds while seal was hauled out 6 days later. Seal appears to be recovering.


·       Juvenile male R616 observed with severe laceration across base of muzzle. Closely assessed by staff, wounds exactly match previous seals injuries caused by hagfish trap cones. Seal monitored without intervention. Seal fully healed in 3 weeks. 

Molting: 1 seals molted this past month.

Displacements: 1 seal was displaced from the keiki pool.

Some beaches are more popular than others for surfing and snorkeling and, even, seals. Take Kealia Beach Park. It’s not a popular haul out spot for Hawaiian monk seals. But, yesterday, a seal hauled out at this east side beach, more popular for body boarders and dog walkers.

The penultimate word in the previous sentence might lead one to worry that this story is about an unfortunate encounter between a “dog that runs in the sea” and one (or ones) that runs on four legs on the beach. And while there seem to be increasing numbers of monk seal and dog encounters across the island, this story does not end in one such encounter. Thankfully.

(As a reminder: state leash law says all dogs must be on leash and under owner’s control at all times on state beaches; however, no dogs—except service dogs—are allowed at County of Kauai beach parks, and Kealia is a County of Kauai Beach Park.)

But beachgoers were concerned. Lifeguards, too. A volunteer with the Kauai Hawaiian Monk Seal Conservation Hui showed up and set up a “stick fence” to alert beachgoers to the snoozing seal. As is protocol, the volunteer checked the seal for entanglements and took photos. And something was different about this seal. Instead of red tags that are reserved for monk seals tagged in the Main Hawaiian Islands or even the black color used for Niihau seals, the volunteer reported this seal as “thin” and sporting gray tags. And that’s where things got really interesting.

Gray tags are usually reserved for monk seals tagged at Hōlanikū, also known as Kure Atoll. Hōlanikū is notable for its location as the most northern and western of all Hawaiian Islands, some 1,300 miles away in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. Hōlanikū also happens to host the most northern and western population of Hawaiian monk seals. 

Sure enough. After examining photos, it was revealed the seal was known as KG54 (with tags G54 and G89) born at Hōlanikū in 2015. 

But yesterday wasn’t this seal first sighting in the Main Hawaiian Islands. A female, she was first spotted on Oahu in late 2021 and throughout 2022. In January 2023, she was reported on Kauai’s west side looking rather large—maybe pregnant. Based on her 2022 molt date, NOAA biologists estimated a pup-date of mid-February.

But there were no more sightings of her until yesterday—and looking thin, suggesting she may have pupped in a remote location like Niihau and now, after weaning her pup, is on the move again. The question is where? Is she headed back to Oahu? Hōlanikū? Or will she stick around Kauai?

These are the kinds of interesting discoveries that make volunteers head out in wind and rain with their binoculars to see what they might find on the beach!

PC: Kaufman

Nine-year-old female RF30 (and daughter of the battle scarred RK30, profiled last week) gave birth to our first Kauai pup of the year. PK1 is her first known pup—and he’s also confirmed to be a boy!

PK1 is an active pup. When he was first sighted by a volunteer, he was reported to be circling mom, looking for a meal. And he’s found great success in discovering where his nourishment comes from, is learning to swim, and continues to be quite active. First time mom RF30 seems to be adjusting to motherhood quite well. She’s attentive but also doesn’t hesitate to pin the pup down with her front flippers if she doesn’t agree with what he’s doing. In this, she’s exhibiting behavior that’s reminiscent of her own  mother. RF30’s even perfected her mother’s spectacular side-eye.

As positive as the relationship between mom and pup appears to be, the first couple weeks of a pup’s life are critical to ensuring a strong bond is created with its mom—and especially with a first-time mom—so she doesn’t abandon her pup. In the water, moms can also be unpredictable and have been known to act aggressively towards nearby snorkelers, swimmers, and/or fishers. Two good reasons to give moms and pups a wide buffer when on land and in the water. Hawaiian monk seals are protected by state and federal laws. It is illegal to touch, harass, injure or kill a Hawaiian monk seal.

PC: Langley
RK30 - Hawaiian monk seal with multiple scars.

One of the most remarkable and identifiable Hawaiian monk seals was none other than a female known as RK30. RK30 was first identified by the Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center as an adult in 2004/5. She was last seen in November 2019 after giving birth that summer and never recovering her body condition. She was estimated to be, at least, 20 years old. In those 20 years, she collected quite a few scars and stories. She possessed a distinct personality and pupped 11 times. 

In January 2018, this profile of RK30 was published. 

Here is a recap of her progeny and their status:

2006: RO26, female, born at remote beach along Napali Coast. Was sighted frequently on north shore for a year. Then, disappeared.

2008:  RW06, female, born at remote beach on the south shore. Seen frequently at Poipu On March 13, 2016, she spent the night at Poipu and aborted a fetus. The placenta was tested for infectious disease agents. She stayed at Poipu 3 days, and was eventually diagnosed with placentitis that resolved on its own. RW06 was regularly reported on the south side in 2017, but never seen again after Nov. 2017.

2009:  Newborn pup born at remote beach on along Napali Coast. Tour boat operators witnessed pup struggling in rough onshore break. RK30 tried multiple times to lead and call pup back to beach. She succeeded once, but pup never made it back to the beach.

2010: Unknown pup born at remote beach along Napali Coast in late summer. By the time RK30 weaned pup, winter waves made it too unsafe for a crew to journey out to tag pup/weaner. Could be pup/weaner was tagged as a juvenile.

2011: RK56, male, born at a remote beach along Napali. Found dead October 2012 at Mahaulepu with slide bait hook and line ingested.

2012:  RL24, male, born on a remote beach on the north shore. Disappeared.

2014:  RF30, female, born on a remote beach on the north shore. Seen infrequently on the east shore.

2016:  RH38, female, born at a remote beach along Napali the day after RK30 was attacked by man at Salt Ponds. In 2017, RH38 was sent to Ke Kai Ola (Monk Seal Hospital) for thin body condition/parasite load. In 2019, she was admitted back to Ke Kai Ola for a systemic infection, unknown trauma to rear end, and emaciation.

2017:  RJ36, male, born at a remote beach along Napali. In 2020, ingested fish hook and died.

2018:  RKA2, female, born at a remote beach on north shore. Seen frequently along the east shore.

2019: RL30, female, born at a remote beach along Napali. Last sighted October 2022. 

RK30 gave birth to mostly female pups. Sadly, six, possibly seven of her 11 progeny are dead.  However, the good news is her remaining four are healthy adult females entering their reproductive years.

Earlier this year, Dr. Mimi Olry was interviewed for this NOAA podcast about RK30 and other Kauai matriarchs here.