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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?

Field Report: January 2015

As noted in a previous update, 47 individual seals were sighted on Kauai in 2014. In just the first month of 2015, we have sighted an additional 3 new seals previously unknown to us, meaning they are likely from Niihau. The smallest and most recent addition was flipper tagged by the Kauai team at Poipu and is now known as R6AP (tagged 6AP in left rear flipper, 6AR in the right, and bleach marked V11). He’s a rather small seal (approximately 80-90 pounds and likely born last summer), but seems healthy and strong.

hawaiian monk seal, R6AP

Photo credit: J. Honnert

 

hawaiian monk seal, R6AP

Photo credit: J. Honnert

Loss of female pup, RF58.

hawaiian monk seal, RF58

Photo credit: G. Langley

At the end of November, 2014, female RF58 suffered severe blunt force trauma to the skull and died from complications associated with massive trauma and significant internal bleeding. The necropsy did not reveal any other signs of disease or illness. This is the 9th suspicious monk seal death since 2009, and the first since April 2012. NOAA Office for Law Enforcement (OLE) is investigating these deaths in coordination with the State of Hawaii, DLNR DOCARE. 

hawaiian monk seal, RF58

Photo credit: V. Bloy

RF58 was born in June, 2014 on the north shore of Kauai to a well-known mother, RH58. This mom/pup pair had a rough start though, as we reported in an earlier posting, they were victims of a dog attack in July 2014 that killed another pup. After developing abscesses (i.e., infection) from over 60 dog bites, RF58 was treated by a veterinarian and recovered. Sadly, this female pup will not have the chance to contribute to the recovery of this highly endangered species. The encouraging news is that this mother was born on Kauai in the year 2000 and has since returned 8 times to give birth to 8 pups. We look forward to her return again in 2015.

hawaiian monk seal, RF58

Photo credit: V. Bloy.

 

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