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Archive for February, 2015

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?

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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

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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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2014 Year-End Report

Monk Seal Management Summary for Kauai in 2014:

2014 was a busy and promising year for monk seal recovery on Kauai. Below are some of the numbers we tallied based on reports submitted by the public and efforts by volunteers and staff members. (Please note, these are only the numbers for Kauai and don’t represent the larger picture of monk seal recovery in the Hawaiian islands.)

Grand sightings total: 2​,516 monk seal sightings on Kauai in 2014! (6.9 seals per day).
Kauai population: 47 unique individual seals sighted in 2014.

Births:

  • ​5 seal pups born (3 male and 2 female).
  • 3 pregnant females likely pupped on Niihau (departed pregnant, returned thin).

Mortalities: 4 seals died.

  • 2 were 2014 pups (PK5 – dog attack, and RF58 – intentionally killed, investigation is ongoing)
  • ​1 was a ​previously unknown yearling (R4DD​ – cause of death was likely drowning)
  • ​​1 ​was a ​juvenile from 2012 cohort (RL17 ​ – cause of death unknown).​
New Seals: we sighted 11 new seals in 2014, likely from Niihau.

  • 4 were flipper tagged​​ (R4DD, R8HE, R8HP, R1KY).
  • ​1 was captured for ​surgical removal of an injured eye (R1KU)​ and eventually released on Niihau​.
  • ​3 were ​bleach marked for temporary identification.
hawaiian monk seal, RF30

Photo credit: M. Miyashiro

The largest and strongest pup of the year is female RF30. Based on her excellent body condition, it is obvious that she quickly learned to forage on her own after weaning.  She was routinely sighted during the final few months of 2014 along the east side of Kauai.

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