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Early last week, R400 weaned PK2 after 38 days of nursing. Because PK2 was born on a beach that sees heavy truck traffic, as well as, off-shore boat traffic (where she would be learning to swim on her own), it was decided to translocate PK2 to a safer beach elsewhere on the island–one with other monk seals present and an off-shore reef, providing her with a lovely lagoon in which to nose around and learn how to be a monk seal.

Prior to translocating, PK2 was tagged and is now, officially, RQ52–wearing a red tag with Q52 in the webbing on her left rear flipper and Q53 in the webbing on her right rear flipper. Her measurements were good for a healthy Hawaiian monk seal weaner in the Main Hawaiian Islands–133 centimeters long and 121 centimeters around below the fore flippers. She also received her first vaccination to protect her from morbillivirus and will be boostered in three weeks.

The translocation went smoothly with RQ52 sleeping in her transport carrier on a cool evening with some rain as the team drove through Kapaa. She was released about 50 yards from RQ60, who is about month older. Within a couple minutes, they found each and were left snorting and rolling around together on the beach.

By the next day, RQ60 had moved east down the coastline. Meanwhile, as recently weaned seals will do, RQ52 has approached other monk seals, attempting to nurse. In one case, adult male RN30 was not having it, nipping at her. She’s also been sighted hauled out near two-year-old RM36 and, on one occasion, a turtle.

RQ52 has also been spotted tossing around sea cucumbers. This is quite typical of newly-weaned pups as they decide what’s good to eat. Sea cucumbers are generally not something monk seals consume.

Volunteers are still needed to monitor these young Hawaiian monk seals. If you’re interested in becoming a volunteer, please email kauaiseals@gmail.com or call 808-651-7668.

After a whopping 50 days of nursing, RB00 weaned PK1 on July 15th. A few days later, she was bleach-marked V6. The next day, she was flipper-tagged Q60 (left flipper) and Q61 (right flipper).

This process usually takes about five minutes and includes a brief restraint while plastic flipper tags are applied in the webbing of the rear flippers. Her official ID is RQ60. The R indicates that she is part of the Main Hawaiian Island population and the Q indicates she was born in 2022, and 60 is her unique ID. During the tagging process RQ60’s length and girth were also measured, and a microchip was injected under the skin on her right flank.

Now, some interesting facts:

  • Average nursing days for “Kauai” mothers runs 42 days.
  • RB00’s longest nursing record on Kauai was 54 days in 2019. Pup was a male, RL08.
  • RB00 nursed RQ60 for 50 days.
  • At tagging, RL08‘s axillary girth measurement (around his body below his fore flippers) measured 143 centimeters. His length from the tip of his nose to the tip of his tail measured 145 centimeters long.
  • At tagging, RQ60’s axillary girth measured 130 centimeters and her length came in at an astonishing 152 centimeters.

So, RB00 continues to produce some super-sized weaners.

Since tagging, RQ60 continues to hang out at her natal beach, spending more and more time in the water, investigating what the sea offers, including a few sea cucumbers. This is very typical behavior for Hawaiian monk seal weaners, as they figure out what’s good to eat in the sea.

What’s more, RQ60 has been hanging out with other young seals, including her older sister, two-year-old RM36.

On Oahu, RQ60’s grandmother RH58 (“Rocky”) has been making headlines again. She pupped on busy Waikiki beach a few weeks ago and, unfortunately, there have been various interactions with swimmers, including an altercation resulting in injuries to one swimmer. It’s always a good to steer clear of mother monk seals and their pups–give them extra wide berth in the water.

Monthly Update: The Kauai team logged 283 seal sightings this month. This included 27 individually identified seals.

  • June: 283
  • May: 248
  • April: 294
  • March: 292
  • February: 233
  • January: 233
  • December: 267
  • November: 168
  • October: 229
  • September: 251
  • August: 213
  • July: 286
  • June: 218

New:

·       Pup PK2 born on a remote west side beach to R400 in the same location as the previous year. Staff assessed and put up signs for a pup enclosure.

·       Seal response at Poipu, hooked J/F RM28. Team captured RM28 at Poipu Beach Park and removed hook from the right side of the neck. 

·       Seal response at Palamas, hooked J/M RP28.  Assessed seal, hook non-life threatening in right corner of the mouth. Removed leader with metal swivel with seat belt cutter mounted on a pole. Will monitor RP28, anticipate hook will come out on its own.

·       Seal with extensive mobbing wounds sighted at numerous sites on the south shore. Wounds appear to be healing slightly, continue to receive dozens of calls from the public daily. Will continue to monitor and assess if she haul outs and possibly administer antibiotics.

Updates:

·       RB00‘s pup PK 1 continues to thrive, the pup watch schedule continues.

·       Monk seal activity in the Poipu area remains high, with several seals hauled out daily on the very busy Poipu Beaches. 

Molting: 2 seals molted this past month. 

Displacements from Poipu Keiki Pool: RF28 adult male – 1 time

Volunteers:

·       Continue to be stretched thin with so many seals requiring intensive management at Poipu. We will continue to recruit additional new volunteers.

·       Volunteer pupwatch schedules are in place for both pupping events.

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.

Kauai’s second pup (PK2) of 2022 arrived on June 26th to mom R400, known to spend much of her time around Niihau (but she once made an appearance on Oahu) and tends to give birth on remote beaches on Kauai.

So far, so good. Pup is growing and active. S/he’s staying in the same basic area and starting to swim for longer periods and around mom in shallow water.

PC: M. Olry

Meanwhile, on Oahu, one of the most well-known Hawaiian monk seals–RH58 (“Rocky”)–gave birth to her 14th pup at Waikiki. So, the 22-year-old won’t be making a visit to Kaua’i to give birth this year.

Two-year-old RM28 is a Kauai regular. Last year, she ranked fourth on the top ten list of most reported Hawaiian monk seals on the Garden Island.

RM28 is known to haul out on the South Shore. This past April, RM28 had to be displaced (by a trained team) from the keiki pool at Poipu on two occasions.

But she hadn’t been seen for a couple weeks until this past Friday when she, once again, hauled out in Poipu—this time entangled with a fishing hook and line. A team responded and determined she had neither ingested the hook nor lodged it in her mouth and/or cheek. The hook was, weirdly, located on the external side of her neck. The team was able to successfully catch her, remove the hook, and release her.

Here are some photos. 

PC: J. Thomton
PC: J. Thomton

PK1 will make four weeks old this Thursday. In that time, she’s grown and grown. She’s swimming for longer and longer periods of time, and she’s holding her breath for greater amounts of time. On the beach, in addition to her size, what’s evident is she’s starting to molt her natal coat.

All the while, Mom is still looking quite large. The question now is just how long RB00 will hang around before weaning her pup. 

Here’s a photo review of the growth of PK1:

The Kauai team logged 248 seal sightings this month. This included 27 individually identified seals.

  • May: 248
  • April: 294
  • March: 292
  • February: 233
  • January: 233
  • December: 267
  • November: 168
  • October: 229
  • September: 251
  • August: 213
  • July: 286
  • June: 218
  • May: 209

New:

·       RB00 gave birth to female pup PK1 on May 26. This is the 4th consecutive year of pupping on Kauai for RB00. Pup watch schedule established; no issues so far. The pup is thriving.

Updates:

·       Monk seal activity in the Poipu area remains high, with several seals hauled out daily on the very busy Poipu Beaches. 

·       Numerous displacements from the Poipu Keiki pool again this month

Molting: 1 seal completed a molt this past month. 

Displacements: It was a busy month with 4 additional displacements from the keiki pool. There were many seals in the Poipu area socializing, mounting, and playing together all day long. It was primarily subadult males that were the issue. The following seals were displaced:

·       R371 adult female – 2 times

·       R1KY adult female – 1 time

·       RF28 adult male – 1 time

Volunteers:

·       Volunteers are stretched thin with so many seals requiring intensive management at Poipu. We will continue to recruit additional new volunteers.

·       Volunteer pup watch schedule has been established and includes one 3-hour shift each day.

In the early morning hours of Thursday, May 26, a robust RB00 gave birth to Kauai’s first pup of the year on a remote North Shore beach.

PC: K. Rogers

Fifteen-year-old RB00 was born on Kauai but lives on Hawaii Island most of the year. For the past four consecutive years, she has returned to her natal island of Kauai to give birth to her own pups. Her previous Kauai pups are all thriving and include RL08, RM36, and RP32.

PK1 (Pup Kauai-1) has been out swimming for 30-45 minute sessions. RB00 is an attentive mother who keeps a close eye on her pup and methodically presents for nursing bouts. Males have been reported to make stop-by visits (RN30 has made several) and RB00 routinely responds with open-mouthed vocalizing.

More than 20 telephoto, close-up, ventral photographs taken from slightly different angles show PK1’s piko (navel) but no penile opening, indicating PK is female!

PC: J. Thomton

On May 13, a Malama Na Honu volunteer called the hotline at dusk to report a large female green sea turtle hauling onto the beach was entangled with a fishing lure. Photos revealed a large orange bobber with trailing monofilament line was cutting into the turtle’s right fore-flipper. Unfortunately, it was too late in the day–too dark–to respond. Based on the photos, NOAA’s Marine Turtle Stranding Program determined intervention was likely necessary.

PC: C. Keesee

On May 18, the turtle was sighted again, this time without the bobber. But a deep wound remained and monofilament line was encircling and strangulating the flipper. It was determined that surgery was needed to treat the wound and save the limb. NOAA’s Marine Turtle Stranding Program organized transport to the Maui Ocean Center where radiographs revealed a pathological fracture, requiring amputation of the flipper. Follow-up care and rehabilitation should result in the eventual release of this turtle. Amazingly, sea turtles adjust to missing a flipper and can swim and move on the beach with three flippers.

This past weekend a visitor reported a basking turtle with a fishing lure and two small treble hooks caught on the neck of a large honu. It was determined the lure with small hooks was not life-threatening, but the trailing monofilament line could entangle and strangle the neck and/or limbs, and a fisherman on the scene was able to remove the line. NOAA has a Fishing Around Sea Turtle (FAST)program for fishermen to cut away fishing lines in an effort to prevent deadly entanglements. Hopefully in the next few days, this honu will reappear for the team to respond and remove the lure. 

PC: D. Warden

Yesterday, a fisherman called the hotline to report hooking a large sea turtle with a barbless hook and that the line broke with about 10” of trailing line. When fishermen can not bring the turtle to shore or a boat to remove the fishing lines, it’s recommended (with a turtle or seal!) to call the stranding hotline at 1-888-256-9840. The stranding network can trigger a search for the entangled animal to prevent injury and/or death.

Maui Ocean Center Turtle hospital: 

http://mocmarineinstitute.org/swimfree/sea-turtle-rescue/

FAST program:

https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/pacific-islands/resources-fishing/fishing-around-seals-and-turtles

Monthly Update: The Kauai team logged 294 seal sightings this month. This included 26 individually identified seals.

  • April: 294
  • March: 292
  • February: 233
  • January: 233
  • December: 267
  • November: 168
  • October: 229
  • September: 251
  • August: 213
  • July: 286
  • June: 218
  • May: 209
  • April: 155

New:

·       Monk seal activity in the Poipu area remains high, with several seals hauled out daily on the very busy Poipu Beaches. 

Updates:

·       New subadult male with bleach mark V11 (temporary ID of V11) is exhibiting concerning behavior by approaching people in the water within three feet, with an obvious interest in humans and no signs of fear. Displacements from the keiki pool in Poipu by staff also revealed the seal has very little fear of humans, but instead boldly approaches crowding boards. Update: this seal was displaced from the keiki pool four times in April and continues to show very little fear of humans. Will continue to closely monitor this seal.

Molting: One seal completed a molt last month at Poipu, a challenging location to manage. 

Displacements: It was a very busy month with 12 displacements from the keiki pool. There were many seals in the Poipu area socializing, mounting, and playing together all day long. Several subadult males showed very little fear or reaction to displacement, specifically RK58 and V11. The following seals were displaced:

·       V11 subadult male – four times

·       RK58 subadult male – four times

·       Temp 609 subadult male – one time

·       RF28 adult male – one time

·       RM28 juvenile female – two times