Archive for November, 2019

In today’s local newspaper, you may have read about an international seal study that has implications right here in Hawaii.

The Garden Island reported the story about a long-term research study in Scotland. NOAA’s research ecologist Stacie Robinson told Jessica Else of The Garden Island, “Some of the lines of thinking (in the St. Andrews research) are applicable to Hawaiian monk seals,” Robinson said. “We’re doing something that’s logically similar, but we’re using the patterns of our citizen science reports to get the information.”

Robinson’s study is due out soon, and it likely includes information provided by Kauai’s own dedicated crew of citizen scientists, as well as, the general public and concerned visitors who call the Kauai Hawaiian Monk Seal Hui’s hotline to report seal sightings. According to Robinson, all this helps scientists working in the recovery of Hawaiian monk seals by providing critical information about “vital rates,” things like reproductive, body condition, and survival rates.

Today, the Kauai Hawaiian Monk Seal Hotline rang with one such report. The caller also provided distant cell phone photos that allowed DLNR’s Mimi Olry to identify the seal–even without the observation of a the seal’s rear flipper tag. (Ironically, this seal only has one rear flipper tag, because when she was flipper-tagged in 2015 when she was an estimated three years of age, the procedure was interrupted by an incoming wave.)

The key to the seal’s ID was that the caller texted full-length body shots–front and back–as well as a head-on and tail-first photographs. All were taken, of course, from a respectful distance. Too, the caller provided location photos to make it easier for our volunteer to find the seal.

This particular seal has some significant natural identifiers–a cookie cutter shark scar on her back, a scar across her chest from a suspected shark bite, and a missing digit on her left fore flipper.

Do you know who she is?

What’s more, the photos indicated she just might be pregnant. Here are two of the photos.


As is general protocol, a trained volunteered was dispatched to follow up and perform the usual health check to ensure there were no entanglements wrapped around the seal or fishing line projecting from the seal’s mouth. Our volunteer’s report confirmed that this seal was R1KY.


PC: K. Bove


PC: K. Bove



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Field Report: October 2019

Monthly Update: The Kauai team logged 258 seal sightings this month. This included 36 individually identified seals.

October: 258
September: 203
August: 324
July: 239
June: 179
May: 262
April: 348
March: 350
Feb: 303
Jan: 284


  • A new juvenile male seal was flipper tagged on the South Shore by the Kauai team. The seal’s ID is R1NI.
  • Very pregnant AF R8HE spent two weeks on a North Shore beach. This seal is usually on Maui and Hawaii Island, and pupped on Maui in 2018. She has moved back to Oahu since. Her predicted pupping date was Nov 9.
  • The annual monk seal count day occurred on Oct 19th. Kauai had the most seals with 20 seals reported before noon. Three more seals hauled out later the day for a total of 23 different seals sighted on Kauai that day. The statewide (from Kauai to BI) total count was 50 seals.


  • PK6 born at Milolii in September is male, the mother is R400, the same female that has pupped at Milolii in Sept the past 2 years. The pup weaned on approximately Oct 31, resulting in 41-day nursing period. Tour boats and kayak companies are providing updates.
  • S/F R7AA was seen with a small lump under the left jaw line on 8/31/19, it was possibly a small abscess. The seal was re-sighted on 10/21/19 in good health with no obvious abscesses on the jaw line.
  • RH38, the seal rehabbed at KKO and released in July, continues to thrive on the North Shore.
  • All of the 6 pups born this year have been sighted recently and continue to thrive.
  • Displacements: A/F RK13 was displaced from the road edge at Fuji Beach, Kapaa at 3:00 am after calls from the police that the seal was on the road edge and in danger of being run over.
  • Molting: 3 seals molted this month.
  • Vaccinations: No vaccinations given this month.
  • Bleach marking: Two seals were bleach marked this month, both are new untagged seals.

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.

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Kauai’s sixth pup of the year is now a weaner. He was born on September 20, 2019, and his mother, R400, weaned him 41 days later on October 31, 2019. Other 2019 pups nursed  longer; however, this youngster is no lightweight. When he was flipper-tagged last week–as RL40–he measured 124 centimeters in length and 113 centimeters in girth. As you can see in these pictures, he looks nice and plump and healthy. The tagging team reported L40 (L40 left flipper; L41 right flipper) was strong and feisty and didn’t even depart the beach after tagging.

Kauai’s 2019 pupping season began on February 4 and appears to have ended on October 31–unless there is a late-season surprise birth. It’s happened before. In 2009, RK12 gave birth to a pup who was later flipper-tagged as RA36 in late November, the day after Thanksgiving.


PC: M. Olry


PC: M. Olry


PC: M. Olry


PC: M. Olry


PC: M. Olry


PC: M. Olry

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Monk Seal Monday #75: Tracking RH38

This year has been one of downs and ups for three-and-a-half-year-old RH38. It started with a drastic weight loss that earned the female a visit to Ke Kai Ola on Hawaii Island where she became the first wild Hawaiian monk seal to undergo a CT scan. After an extended stay and recovery from near death, RH38 was returned to Kauai, and it looks like she’ll end the year on a high. Turns out, RH38 is a survivor, like her mother. RH38 was born to the legendary RK30 in May 2016.

Thanks to a telemetry tracking device attached to her back when she was returned to the wild, scientists are able to keep an eye on her movements. (The telemetry device will fall off the next time RH38 molts, if not before.)

The “tracks” resulting from the device show RH38 has logged quite a few miles cruising nearly the entire circumference of Kauai.

RH38 Tracks

Here are some photos of RH38 from October that show her healthy body condition.

RH38 Werthwine 3

PC: M. Werthwine


RH38 by Werthwine 2

PC: M. Werthwine

RH38 Werthwine

PC: M. Werthwine

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