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The Kauai team logged 203 seal sightings this month. This included 31 individually identified seals.

September: 203
August: 324
July: 239
June: 179
May: 262
April: 348
March: 350
Feb: 303
Jan: 284

New:

  • A second pup was born at a remote beach along Na Pali Coast. The ID of the mother is unknown, but likely the same Niihau female that has pupped on that beach the past two Septembers, R400. Tour boats and kayak companies are providing updates.

Updates:

  • Sub-adult female R7AA was seen with small lump under left jaw line on 8/31/19, possibly a small abscess. The seal has not been re-sighted since. The plan is to closely monitor.
  • RH58 (Rocky) successfully weaned her female pup, PK5. The pup was flipper-tagged and vaccinated and now has an ID of RL58.
  • RK30 successfully weaned her female pup, PK6. The pup was flipper-tagged, and the seal’s ID is now RL30.
  • RH38, the seal rehabbed at Ke Kai Ola and released in July, continues to thrive on the north shore.
  • The first three 2019 pups (RL08, RL52, and RL28) continue to be sighted in good condition at various north and east shore beaches.
  • Displacements: No seals were displaced this month.
  • Molting: Four seals were observed molting this month.
  • Vaccinations: PK4 and PK5 were vaccinated during pup tagging and received booster vaccinations three weeks later.
  • Bleach marking: One seal was bleach marked this month.

Research/Support of Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center:

  • Sub-sampled scat, molt, and tissue plug samples accordingly.
  • Logged all seal sightings for PIFSC database. Organized photos and reported sightings, molt tallies, survival factors to send to PIFSC.

In March 2018, called the hotline to report an adult Hawaiian monk seal hauled out on Poipu Beach with something dangling from her mouth. What’s more, the seal looked skinny. The concern with a report like that is always that a Hawaiian monk seal has ingested a fish hook and is unable to forage on her own. After consultation with NOAA officials and veterinarians, it was decided to conduct a physical examination of the seal.

Turns out, a fish bone was lodged between the seal’s hard palette, left inner cheek, and tongue, and the dangling matter hanging from her mouth was a large octopus arm that had gotten caught on the fish bone.

The seal wasn’t flipper-tagged, but she was known as R376. After removing the fish bone, injecting her with an antibiotic to combat any infections, and flipper-tagging the seal (7AU left and 7AV right), she was released.

R376 isn’t seen around Kauai often. In fact, she’s only been reported to the hotline nine times this year, usually on the south shore. It’s suspected she spends most of her time on Niihau. But she turned up on Kauai at just the right time one-and-a-half years ago. And, now, her most recent sighting shows she’s continuing to thrive. In fact, her size is such that there’s some speculation she may be pregnant. Now, how’s that for a survival story!IMG_6606

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Our first pup of the year arrived on February 4th. That pup, a male, nursed for 54 days and was tagged RL08. He was recently photographed looking as healthy–and as comfortable in his skin–as ever.

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Then, on September 20th, at a remote Kauai beach, another pup popped up, as evidenced by this cryptic cell phone photo. Meet PK6.

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The mother is suspected to be R400, a female who has pupped in the same location the past two years (on approximately 9/16/2018 and 9/11/2017), so the timing is about right.

After a lengthy 53 (possibly 55) days, RK30 weaned her pup, and PK3 is now officially RL30. At tagging, she (yes, female) measured 126 centimeters from the tip of her nose to the tip of her tail and measured 104 centimeters at her plumpest just below her fore flippers.

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PC. J. Thomton.

This is RK30’s 11th known pup and her longest known nursing period. Conservatively, she nursed for 53 days; however, she may have nursed for as long as 55. The exact date isn’t quite exact, because RK30 pupped on a remote beach and daily reports aren’t always daily. Prior to this year, RK30’s longest known nursing duration was 51 days (RJ36) in 2017 and her shortest known nursing bout was 46 days (RL24) in 2012.

RK30 is something of a poster-seal illustrating the kinds of threats these animals face. Her story of perseverance can be read here.

If you’re keeping count, Kauai’s mamas produced a total of three females and two males this year. In 2019, three regulars birthed and raised pups on Kauai–RK30, RK28, and RH58. After previously pupping on Maui and Lanai, RB00 pupped for the first time on Kauai, her birth island. And after giving birth to a stillborn pup last year, RK52 produced a healthy pup this year.

Monthly Update: The Kauai team logged 324 seal sightings this month. This included 35 individually identified seals.

August: 324
July: 239
June: 179
May: 262
April: 348
March: 350
Feb: 303
Jan: 284

New:

  • Sub-adult female R7AA seen with small lump under left jaw line on 8/31/19, possibly a small abscess. The seal has not been resighted since. The plan is to closely monitor.

Updates:

  • RH38, the seal rehabbed at KKO and released in July continues to thrive on north shore.
  • The first two 2019 pups, RL08 and RL52, continue to be sighted in good condition at various north and east shore beaches.
  • The last two North Shore pups weaned in August and were tagged. These pups are both female and born to RK28 and RH58 (Rocky), both common Oahu adult females. Extensive pup-watch monitoring took place in August with very few issues.
  • Sightings of the remote Napali pup of RK30 continue to come in from tourboat and kayak tours on the Na Pali Coast. The pup weaned in the last week of August.
  • Displacements: R7AA was displaced away from the road edge at Lawai Beach.
  • Molting: 3 seals were observed molting this month.
  • Vaccinations: PK4 and PK5 were vaccinated during pup tagging.

Research/Support of Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center: (PIFSC):

  • Sub-sampled scat, molt, placenta, and tissue plug samples accordingly.
  • Logged all seal sightings for PIFSC database. Organized photos and reported sightings, molt tallies, survival factors to send to PIFSC.

Another pup has graduated to “weaner-hood” and received her (yes, female) official flipper tags. Meet RL58. Her mom, the renowned RH58 (Rocky), nursed PK5 for 45 days.

At tagging, RL58 measured 118 cm long and 96 cm around (girth). She’s reportedly doing well, even holding her own with RN44 (male) who has been spotted wrestling and swimming with her. A feisty female is good;-)

Here are some photos of her post-tagging.

(PC: M. Olry)

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After 40 days of nursing, RK28 weaned her pup (a female) early last week. By week’s end, PK4 officially became RL28. (Interesting side note: RL28’s left flipper tag is RL28; however, because there wasn’t an RL29 tag, her right flipper tag is RL33.)

RL28 measured 134.5 centimeters from the tip of her nose to the tip of her small tail. She measured 117 centimeters around (girth), taken just below her fore flippers.

Here are pictures of her looking nice and healthy the day before receiving her flipper tags.

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PC: J. Thomton

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PC: J. Thomton

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PC: J. Thomton

And here are pictures of her enjoying a two-hour swim–where she was witnessed picking up, possibly, a sea cucumber–just prior to receiving her flipper tags.

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PC: M. Olry

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PC: M. Olry

Meanwhile, mom, RK28, has been spotted at various beaches on the north shore. Beachgoers have reported her, concerned about health and confused about her scars. They think they’re recent wounds. They are not. Several years ago, RK28 turned up with fresh wounds on her back that were determined to be the result of adult male aggression. You’ll find more about this threat to Hawaiian monk seal survival here. RK28’s condition will continue to be monitored, especially in this time right after weaning when it’s important that she recover her weight loss. This photo was taken over the weekend.

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PC: Galasso

This is an older photo from 2016 shortly after RK28’s injuries.

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PC: Sterling