RH92 (formerly known as PK2) has been busy. She now has a bleach mark of V92 that will make identifying her from a distance much easier. She’s also beginning to travel up and down the coast, going several miles one direction and equally far in the other direction. This makes her much harder for our volunteers to find! She’s been observed flipping rocks and checking things out just like a wild seal should. She’s also been observed with sea cucumber slime on her face. Not something that likely will continue as she discovers more deletable tidbits from the sea!
It’s been a little over two weeks since RH92 was tagged. She has been busy exploring up and down the coastline near where she was born, and she’s been making a few friends, too–there’s Temp325, RN44, RN30, 3CU, RK05, RV18 and even recently de-hooked RF28 sporting a tracking device on his back. We have not witnessed her eat any sea cucumbers, as many weaners inevitably do, but she has tried seaweed. Basically, she’s just being a wild monk seal and doing a good job of it, at that.
Here are a few photos of her escapades.
And now PK2 is officially RH92.
On Thursday, July 7, our second weaner of the year “graduated.” That is, a pair of plastic “temple” tags were attached to her hind flippers. The color of the tag indicates where the animal was born. The first letter indicates the year it was born. So, in this case, all three pups born on Kauai this year will receive red tags with the first character being “H.” Red for all Main Hawaiian Island pups. And “H” for 2016. The two numbers that follow the letter are unique for each individual animal.
At the same time that RH92 was flipper tagged, she was vaccinated against morbillivirus, measurements of length and axillary girth were taken, a tissue sample collected, and a micro-chip pit tag (much like the kind used with dogs and cats) was inserted. And all that gets done in about five minutes. She reacted calmly throughout the entire effort. So much so that when the team finished, she rested for about 15 or 20 minutes before heading to the water for a three-hour swim.
With RH92’s weaning and tagging, we will now reduce our (P)updates to periodic reports.
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Updates for our Kauai seals and pups.
RK30 weaned her pup, PK1. This pup most likely nursed 49 to 50 days, making this a very big pup. On Monday, June 27th, she was tagged and vaccinated and is now, officially, RH38, (tags H38/ H39).
RK22 weaned her pup, PK2, on Sunday, July 2, after 41 days of nursing.
RO28 arrived from Oahu and pupped, PK3 on June 15. Both are doing well.
Vaccinating seals on Kauai.
The Kauai coordinators are in the process of vaccinating Kauai seals against Morbillivirus, a disease that causes measles in humans and distemper in dogs. To protect our rare Hawaiian monk seals, the first ever vaccination of wild seals has been initiated, as epidemics of this deadly virus have devastated other seal species populations around the world. So far, 13 Kauai seals have received their initial vaccination and some their second booster shot. We are now earnestly looking to booster several male seals, and volunteers can assist us by looking out for RF28 ( red tags, and transmitter on his back, on the north and east sides of Kauai), and N1AA (black tags on the south and west sides of the island). Also, RN30, R8HY subadult males found primarily on the east side often Ahukini cove.
Here is a video of how seals are vaccinated. We will put out a list as time goes on, to identify which seals we are looking for to booster in the 3-5 week window and would truly appreciate assistance in looking for them.
RF28 and RF30 released and doing well.
On May 27, RF28, a juvenile male seal, was found with an ingested hook that was successfully removed on Oahu by a veterinary team. He was soon released back on Kauai with a transmitter on June 2.
A week later, we were surprised to find another internally hooked seal, RF30, a juvenile female! She was located at the Poipu county beach park keiki pool where she was logging and acting strangely. A team was assembled for a water capture using fence panels and crowding boards. This challenging capture was successful due to our many fine volunteers that rallied on a very short notice. Without volunteers to find and assist with capturing these injured seals, none of these successes would be possible! We supremely need and appreciate all our volunteers! RF30 was also transported to Oahu by a US Coast Guard C-130. She was found to have some swelling in the throat where the hook was lodged and at the base of the tongue. It was successfully removed using an endoscope and specially designed tools. Four days later RF30 was flown back to Kauai and released on the east side of the island where she normally resides. Both seals are fitted with satellite tags that are solar powered.
Other marine species:
News from NOAA Fisheries Sea turtle program. If you see a honu or ‘ea on the beach or in the water, please remember:
- View sea turtles from a distance of 10 feet (3 meters). In Hawai‘i, we view turtles respect- fully. Give turtles space and don’t feed, chase, or touch them.
Hawaiian honu bask on the beach. This is normal behavior. Don’t try to
push them back into the water.
- “It’s OK to help!” Fishermen, check your gear often, use barbless circle hooks and adhere to state gillnet rules. If safe for both you and the turtle, release accidentally caught turtles by fol- lowing these steps:
- REEL-IN the turtle carefully
- HOLD by its shell or flippers
- CUT LINE as close to the hook as possible, and
- RELEASE with no (or as little) gear or line attached.
- “No white light at night.” Use wildlife friendly lighting near the coast (yellow/amber and shielded lights). Don’t use flash photography, and keep lights and beach fires to a minimum from May to December, when turtles are nesting hatchlings are emerging.
- Avoid beach driving. Off-road vehicles crush nests, create tire ruts that trap hatchlings, and degrade habitats. Driving on the beach is also illegal in most areas.
Prevent debris and rubbish from entering the ocean. Participate in beach and reef cleanup activities.
- Report all hawksbill sea turtle sightings, any nesting activity (turtle tracks or nest digging), and injured or dead turtles to NOAA’s Sea Turtle Stranding Hotline on Kaua‘i: (808) 274-3344.
- Report illegal or suspicious activity that may result in turtle injury or death by calling the Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE) at
(808) 587-0077 or 643-DLNR.
Day two of weaner life and PK2 is finding trash. She didn’t eat this piece of plastic–it looks like a broken bit from a hagfish/eel trap–and our volunteer slipped in and removed it while she was napping. But this gives us an opportunity to request that you not only pack out your own trash when you go to the beach but perhaps collect and carry out other trash, as well. You could be saving a monk seal’s life.
PK2 spent much of the day sleeping with only one observed swim.
We’ve got other news: PK3 is a girl. That makes three female pups born on Kauai this year. Since it takes more females than males to contribute to the species’ overall population, this is good news.
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We have a weaner! After 41 days, RK22 is foraging the deep waters beyond the reef, looking for prey to fill her belly and fatten up again, while back at the beach, PK2 has moved into a new phase of her life. She’ll now spend the next few weeks sticking close to her natal beach, exploring the shallows, and then start moving down the coast and around the island. Those big fat reserves will come in handy as she figures out what’s good to eat and not. Now’s a critical time in PK2’s life, as she learns to be a wild monk seal. Her curiosity will lead her to food, but it might also lead her to approach people so it’s important to keep an extended amount of distance from monk seals, especially pups on the beach and in the water.
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Well, we almost had a weaner today. Until mid-afternoon, PK2 was alone and exploring the shallows and napping. Then, RK22 re-appeared, waking pup. Mom presented for nursing, but the bout did not last long. Shortly after mom arrived, male R336 hauled out, as well, with no complaint from mom.
We’ve seen this behavior by moms before. Sometimes toward the end of their time together, mom will leave pup alone for a few hours or day, presumably to forage for food, and return for a short visit.
And here is RO28 and PK3 heading out for a swim.
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