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Archive for August, 2013

Field Report: Summer 2013

2013 Pups on Kauai: 2013 has been a strong seal pupping year in the Main Hawaiian Islands with 20 pups born across Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Kaho’olawe, and the Big Island. Four of those pups were from first time mother seals. On Kauai, two pups were born on the North Shore, both to female seals that typically haul-out on Oahu, but come to Kauai to pup.

Photo credit: Kim Rogers

Photo credit: Kim Rogers

The first pup was identified as PK1 (Pup Kauai #1) until tagged after weaning as RN30. This male pup was born on May 11th to female RO28, a first time mom that was born at the same beach on Kauai in 2006. She turned out to be a very protective and vigilant mom successfully nursing PK1 for 40 days. As with all monk seals, moms permanently leave their pups at time of weaning, just as RO28 did, quickly returning to haul-out on Oahu just 3 days later.

The second pup was also a male, identified as PK2 until tagged as RN44 after weaning. The ‘R’ identifies these seals as Main Hawaiian Island monk seals, and the ‘N’ indicates that the pups are part of the 2013 cohort, the final two numerals are unique identifiers for each seal. PK2 was born on June 9th to an experienced mom RH58. This great mom is known for making big healthy pups, and PK2 was no different. After 39 days of nursing this pup’s waistline was nearly the same as his length!

20130808,Larsens,RN44(Thomton)3

Photo credit: NOAA/Jamie Thomton

Both pups are doing great and have been observed foraging together near their birth beaches. In addition to their flipper tags, both seals have been bleach marked (with human hair bleach) with allows identification from a distance, or underwater by snorkelers and divers. RN30 has a bleach mark “V30” on his right flank, and RN44 is marked as “V44” again on his right flank. These bleach marks are temporary and will last only until their first molt in approximately one year.

CritterCam research with National Geographic Continues on Kauai:

A monk seal research team from the Pacific Island Fisheries Science Center and National Geographic spent a week on Kauai during July in order to capture and instrument an adult male seal, RV18, with a suite of instruments. The primary instrument was the CritterCam that records video of life as seen through the eyes of a seal. The camera is mounted on the back of the seal, along with several tracking devices and an accelerometer. So far, the video has confirmed that monk seals are generalist foragers feeding primarily on small reef and bottom fishes and a variety of invertebrates. The cameras are also documenting that seals spend much time resting and sleeping underwater, coming to the surface to breathe every 10 to 20 minutes.

Photo courtesy of National Geographic Remote Imaging

Photo courtesy of National Geographic Remote Imaging

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