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Monthly Update:
The Kauai team logged 350 seal sightings in March. This included 38 individually identified seals.

March: 350
Feb: 303
Jan: 284
Dec: 153
Nov: 145
Oct: 203
Sep: 199

New:

  • Yearling female RKA6 was de-hooked by the Kauai team and immediately released. The hook was a large circle hook with 5 m of heavy monofilament trailing. The seal has fully recovered.

Updates:

  • Adult female RB00 weaned her pup after 54 days of nursing. He was tagged as RL08 in April.
  • RK58 was reared at Ke Kai Ola from August 4, 2018 until released on Feb 13, 2019 after a 3 day soft-release. The seal has remained in the release area, has shown no signs of interest in humans, and is interacting normally with other seals in the area. He also molted this month and lost his satellite tag. He was only 8 months old when he molted, which is unusual as the first molt is usually between 12-16 months of age.
  • Displacements: No seals were displaced from the keiki pool. However, adult female RK90 began hauling out at and spending the nights at a beach that’s considered unsafe due to trucks driving on the beach. Therefore, RK90 was displaced (with the proper NOAA approvals and staff) off the beach at sunset five times, twice along with adult male RK05. RK90 continues to return to this beach several times per week but has begun foraging at night again, eliminating the need for further displacement. Close monitoring of this beach continues.
  • Bleach markings: 3 were applied this month.
  • Molting: 2 seals molted this month.

Research/Support of PIFSC:

  • 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.
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PC: G. Langley

The numbers are in.

Last week, a couple days after weaning, PK1 was flipper-tagged. He is now known as RL08. His left flipper tag reads L08, and his right reads L09.

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PC: G. Langley

At the same time he was tagged, RL08 also received his initial vaccination to protect against morbillivirus. (Click here to learn more about the Hawaiian monk seal vaccination program.)

Too, Kauai’s newest weaner was measured—both in length and girth. As suspected, RL08 set some recent records.

The hefty weaner measured 145 centimeters in length—from the tip of his nose to the tip of his tail. His girth—the widest part of his body just below his fore flippers—rolled in at a ridiculous 143 centimeters. Basically, he’s almost as big around as he is long.

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PC: G. Langley

But how do those numbers compare?

For a variety of reasons, not all weaners get measured. However, the average length of 14 weaners (not including RL08) over the past six years, equaled 130.5 centimeters. The average girth of those same 14 weaners equaled 114.85 centimeters.

Let me repeat: RL08’s length came in at 145 centimeters and his girth at 143 centimeters.

He’s a big boy.

Based on the photos (thanks again, Gary), we knew that, right?

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PC: G. Langley

In some other good news, RK13’s pup from last year—RK42, who was last sighted the day she had a fishing hook removed from mouth on July 28—popped up last week on the southeast side of the island look quite healthy herself. What a relief.

RK42 proves that bigger doesn’t always equate to weaner survival. She was a fairly small weaner, measuring 126 centimeters in length and 100 centimeters around her girth when she was tagged last year. Go RK42!

Just two days shy of eight weeks after giving birth, RB00 finally weaned her pup, PK1.

RB00 nursed for a grand total of 54 days. That’s the longest stretch of nursing days for a Kauai pup going back to and including data on pups since 2012. The previous record was 51 days set in 2017 by RK30, a well-known (and well-storied) mom. Her pup was RJ36. The year prior, in 2016, RK30 nursed her pup (RH38) for a total of 50 days.

The average number of nursing days for Kauai moms since 2012 is 42 days. Last year, RK30 nursed for 49 days while both RK28 and RO28 nursed their pups for 39 days each.

The shortest number of nursing days occurred in 2012 when RK13 weaned RL10 after 32 days. During her pregnancy, RK13 experienced two injuries consistent with shark bites that left her in smaller condition than her usual pregnancy weight.

Here are some of the very last photos of PK1 with RB00 and also a few from his first day on his own. Watch for one photo in particular that illustrates clearly why some people theorize that the moniker “monk” for these seals harken to the kind of hood some religious monks wear as part of their habit.

As always, thanks to Gary Langley for so generously sharing his photographs.

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RB00 continues to nurse PK1, who turns seven weeks old today. What’s more, mom’s still got a supply of fat reserves that could indicate she’ll be around for a few more days, if she chooses.

In the main Hawaiian Islands, female monk seals typically wean their pups five to six weeks after giving birth. Because they generally don’t forage while they’re nursing, moms lose a hefty amount of weight. So much weight that their shoulder, rib, and hip bones will often be visible by the time they wean. We often say it’s starvation that forces a mom to leave her pup. But RB00’s bones are still well hidden under a layer of blubber, seven weeks after giving birth. Of course, it helped that she arrived tipping the scales at who knows what weight–suffice it to say she was a heavyweight. It’ll be interesting to see if RB00 waits to wean until she starts looking emaciated or whether something else drives her to split from her pup.

Meanwhile, PK1 is fat and feisty and starting to toss sea cucumbers out of the water. That means, his innate foraging behavior is kicking in. He still pesters mom for sustenance, though. Watch this slide show for the pair’s latest photos (from volunteer G. Langley). Notice PK1 interacting with a stick in the water.

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Monthly Update: The Kauai team logged 303 seal sightings this month. This included 30 individually identified seals.

Feb: 303
Jan: 284
Dec: 153
Nov: 145
Oct: 203
Sep: 199

New:

  • Adult female RB00 pupped at a remote beach on the North Shore. This is her natal beach, however she had previously pupped on Maui and Lanai, not Kauai. The pup is male and thriving.
  • Subadult female RH38 is currently molting and very thin. This seal was rehabbed at KKO in 2017 due to a heavy parasite burden and emaciated body condition. Currently we are closely monitoring the seal as her molt continues in hopes that she will gain weight as soon as the molt is complete. However, plans to send her to KKO for rehab are being discussed.

Updates:

  • RK58 was reared at Ke Kai Ola from August 4, 2018 until released on Feb 13, 2019 after a 3 day soft-release. This required building a beach pen to hold him, and for staff and volunteers to camp on site to monitor the captive seal prior to release. The seal has shown no signs of interest in humans, and is interacting normally with other seals in the area.
  • Poipu Keiki Pool: Two displacements of subadult male seals R3CX and RG58. occurred this month. This is the third displacement for each from the Keiki Pool.
  • Bleach markings: none
  • Molting: 1 seal molted this month.

Research/Support of PIFSC:

  • 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.

 

Here are some images (thanks G. Langley) taken during the past week of PK1. He continues to grow, marks six weeks of life today, and may become a “weaner” in the next few days.

 

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Kauai’s first pup of the year–PK1 is five weeks old today and continues to grow. Here are some photos from the past few weeks. (Thanks G. Langley for your camera with the telephoto lens!)

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To put things in perspective, here’s video from a few weeks ago that still rate RB00 as ocean liner status and illustrate how small PK1 once was!

Monthly Update:
The Kauai team logged 284 seal sightings this month. This included 28 individually identified seals.

Jan: 284
Dec: 153
Nov: 145
Oct: 203 in Oct
Sep: 199
Aug: 295

New:

  • Federal government shutdown from Dec 22, 2018 to Jan 25, 2019 greatly affected operations on Kauai.
  • Unable to displace a seal hauled out in the Poipu Keiki pool due to government shutdown.

Updates:

  • Update: RK58 was reared at Ke Kai Ola from August 4, 2018 until released on Kauai on Feb 13, 2019 after a 3 day soft-release. This required building a beach pen to hold him, and for staff and volunteers to camp on site to monitor the captive seal prior to release.
  • Bleach markings: none
  • Molting: 2 seals molted this month.

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

  • 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.