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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

 

 toxo p1toxo p2

 

Recently volunteers and coordinators noticed one of our young seals was losing condition–becoming thin. NOAA Science center biologists and veterinarians made the decision to intervene, so R6AP was caught on March 5. The team took blood samples and swabs and implemented a de-worming protocol. At the same time, a satellite tag was attached to track R6AP’s movements and make follow up assessments. Since then, blood work returned within normal limits. We will continue to map his movements and observe his condition in the next few weeks.

Photo credit: M. Olry

Photo credit: M. Olry

The first main Hawaiian Island pup for 2015 was born last week to R5AY on Oahu. She’s a Kauai and Oahu seal, but mostly an Oahu seal these days. You may remember R5AY suffered from a severely hooked tongue in 2013 that required surgical removal of a portion of it. Here’s a snapshot of her life:
Background: Tagged in 2002 as an adult on Kauai – so currently at least 18 years old (assuming 5 yrs old when first seen – min age of sexual maturity)

Has mostly spent her time since between Kauai and Oahu

Pupping History

2005 – Kauai  RI37 (female)

2006 – Oahu  (female)

2008 – Oahu  (male)

2009 – Kauai  RA20 (female)

2010 – Oahu  (female)

2011 – Oahu  (female)

2012 – Oahu  (female)

2014 – Oahu (female)

2015 – Oahu. Born February 25th. Sex unknown (so far)

Interesting facts/incidents with her other pups:

– Two females died from entangling in gillnets in the Bellows/Waimanalo area on Oahu.

– RI37 has some large scars on her back – potentially from a propeller. Possibly because of the scars or other related internal injuries, she has had a history of miscarriages/abortions and stillborn pups. As of now, she has not yet had a live birth.

Hooking/Entanglement Summary for R5AY

– First reports from kite surfers near Malaekahana State Recreation Area of a seal floating entangled/dead.

– 14 November 2012 – Report of R5AY with hook in cheek on land. Covered in algae. Severely emaciated.

– 17 November – Captured at Sunset Beach by NMFS Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center (PIFSC) staff. Brought to Waikiki Aquarium.

– 19 November – Surgery at Honolulu Zoo w/Drs. Gregg Levine, Michelle Barbieri, and Miles Yoshioka (soft tissue surgeon). Removed ~2/3rds of her tongue

– Recovery at Waikiki Aquarium. Progressed from eating dead fish to capturing live fish in pool.

– 29 November – Released near Turtle Bay. Was fitted with satellite transmitter to track movements.

– Continued surveys by volunteers after release to track location and body condition.

– 12 December – Captured by PIFSC staff to give antibiotics, take blood sample, assess body condition. Appeared to be continuing recovery.

– Mid-January 2013 – Satellite tag stopped transmitting or fell off.

– Mid-February – Molted her fur

Other interesting info regarding monk seal reproduction:

– Gestation length of monk seals is unknown. Period between pup birth dates is ~381 days (on average). After 6 weeks of nursing, females are usually seen ~19 days later with scratches & injuries that imply mating. So the assumption is that gestation is somewhere around 10-11 months. But other seals have delayed implantation – so who knows?

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