Archive for November, 2020

Monk Seal Monday #114: R1KY and Her Scars

The Hawaiian monk seal known as R1KY has been reported to the Hawaiian Monk Seal Conservation Hui hotline in 2020 a total of 45 times. In May and June, several callers reported her on the east side resting in lagoon areas, her head propped on the reef. Other times, she was reported sleeping in shallows, allowing wave-wash to toss her around. At least, once, she was reported to be dead. 

Obviously, these were disconcerting reports, especially since R1KY was quite large at the time and likely pregnant. Also, because this type of logging behavior has been consistent with pregnant Hawaiian monk seals who have died due to toxoplasmosis. 

For five weeks starting mid-July, no one reported R1KY.

Then, on August 13, R1KY appeared on a west side beach, her body condition thin and consistent with a mom who has just weaned a pup. As she’s likely done before, R1KY high-tailed it across the Kaulakahi Channel and pupped on Niihau. 

Since then, she’s been reported numerous times. She’s put on weight and, right on schedule with female monk seal biology, she’s molted, too. In fact, she’s looking great. What’s more, her clean coat shows off her numerous scars. Not that anyone’s counting, but it could be R1KY sports the most scars of any living Hawaiian monk seal. 

Here are a few photos (courtesy J. Thomton) showcasing her many scars and his best guesses as to what caused them. Scars are often used to identify seals, especially those not flipper-tagged. Or if flipper tags are not visible. This is another reason why photographs are super helpful when reporting monk seals to the hotline. Sometimes, even cell phone photographs texted to the hotline can provide the necessary information to identify an individual seal. Always try to get a photo with a unique body identifier like a scar. Take a look at this impressive arrays of scars.

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Another Seal Lost.

Unfortunately, another young Hawaiian monk seal was found dead last week along the Anahola coastline. DOCARE and the NOAA Office of Law Enforcement immediately responded and are conducting an investigation. The seal’s ID is unknown, as it was an untagged seal and had no other markings. The carcass was collected and will be necropsied at a later date. Information about the investigation and the reward for information is available here.

The intentional killing of an endangered Hawaiian monk seal is a violation of state and federal law. Hawaiian monk seals are protected under the Endangered Species Act of 1973. Under the ESA, it is illegal to unlawfully “take,” meaning to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or to attempt to engage in any such conduct with respect to any endangered species or wildlife listed on the Endangered Species List.

Please note, there is a reward of up to $20,000 for information that leads to the issuance of a civil penalty of criminal conviction in one or both of these endangered Hawaiian monk seals.

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Turtle Tuesday #4: The Rescue of KA18.

In these virtual pages, there are numerous stories of injured Hawaiian monk seals that have been taken to rehab, and after a time of care, released back into the wild. There are not, however, any such stories about Hawaiian green sea turtles, honu. Until now.

It started in September with public reports about a lethargic turtle that was having trouble swimming and hauling out at various spots on the south shore. Eventually, it was decided the turtle needed rehabilitative care. The story of KA18 involved a multi-agency effort and resulted in a happy ending. You can read the entire story here.

“Unfortunately, there are times when our activities in Hawaiian waters cause injuries and death to wildlife,” said Mimi Olry, Kauai Monk Seal Response Coordinator at Hawaii State DLNR. “But we can reduce our impact on wildlife by fishing pono, using barbless hooks, not leaving fishing gear entangled on the reefs, boating slowly, picking up marine debris, and also by calling the marine wildlife hotline (888-256-9840) to report injuries so we can all participate to live harmoniously and care for one another.”

You can help in the continued care of KA18 by reporting any sightings of her to our local hotline: 651-7668. Any sea turtle sightings/stranding incidents of any kind on Kauai should also be reported to the same number.

When reporting KA18 on the beach, hereʻs the requested protocol:

  1. Keep a respectful distance of 10 feet or more.
  2. Take a photo (without disturbing the turtle).
  3. Record date/time, tag number, and location.
  4. Email to kauaiseals@gmail.com.

Here are a few more photos to go with the story posted here.

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Field Report: October 2020

Monthly Update: The Kauai team logged 152 seal sightings this month. This included 19 individually identified seals.

  • October: 152
  • September: 152
  • August: 198
  • July: 120
  • June: 81
  • May: 147
  • April: 117
  • March: 200
  • February: 264
  • January: 319
  • December: 180
  • November: 223
  • October: 258


·       A new adult female seal was identified at PMRF and given ID of Temp601. The seal was sighted several times at various locations this month.

·       PMRF monk seal sightings continue at high rate, often with 2 to 4 seals sighted daily. Monk seal activity on the north shore continued at normal rate of 4-6 seals daily. Poipu sightings remain low, however public reports on the hotline have increased with the increase of tourism on Kauai.


·       OLE and DOCARE investigation in suspicious death of RL52 continues. A $20,000 NOAA reward for information was issued.

·       DOCARE investigation into the dog attack on an unknown seal at Kealia Beach remains open. All regular east side seals have been re-sighted in good health.

·       The three pups born in 2020 continue to be routinely sighted at their natal beach, all in good body condition.

·       Due to COVID-19 stay-at-home measures, our new methods of monitoring continue, which include:

o   Weekly surveys of key beaches conducted by NOAA and DLNR staff;

o   DAR staff conducting weekly island wide Creel Surveys;

o   PMRF staff continuing to send in routine reports and photos; and

o   Requesting that people who call the hotline to report seals assist us by sending several photos and setting-up SRA signs or sticks. 

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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Monk Seal Monday #113: RL28 Update

At long last, RL28 has been re-sighted, and she looks great–big and healthy.

RL28 was born to one of our regular “puppers” RK28 on July 19, 2019. She was observed often during her nursing days and after, including a few times in January and early February of this year. However, she hadn’t been re-sighted–and reported–since February 13, 2020.

It’s not unusual for Hawaiian monk seals to seemingly disappear for months on end. But it’s always good to get eyes on them every now and then to know they’re alive and well. That’s why reports to the Kauai Hawaiian Monk Seal Conservation Hui hotline (808-651-7668) are always helpful.

Photos like these are helpful, too, showing views from each side, rear flippers (with tags, if possible) and head-on. The use of a telephoto lens is super helpful, and allow program coordinators to 1) identify the seal (based on scars if there are no flipper tags); and 2) spot any evidence of entanglements, such as a fish hooks. In this case, RL28 is looking great.

Photo credit: J. Thomton.

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Monk Seal Monday #112:

Last week, our NOAA Program Coordinator, Jamie Thomton gave a virtual Kauai update as part of a series of presentations by the Hanauma Bay (Oahu) Education Program. A recording of it can be watched here:

Also, now, all three 2020 Hawaiian monk seal pups–all females–have been bleached. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, pups have not been flipper-tagged this year, so for the near future, these bleach marks will serve as their “tag” identifiers.

The third born (PK3) and last pup to be bleached was V03. PK3 was born two days after and only several hundred feet away from PK2 on the same beach. Post-weaning, they’ve often been seen together. For the first few weeks, PK3 seemed to shadow the elder PK2, always hauling out near PK2. However, in the past week or so, PK3 has become more comfortable hauling out solo.

Eight-month-old V00 (PK1) has ventured away from her natal beach; however, she comes and goes. Her bleach tag, as evidenced in the photo below, has turned a greenish cast.

Some background on bleach marks: 

o Bleach “tags” are applied to the seal’s fur while it’s sleeping using standard over-the-ocounter human hair bleach.

o The “tag” is a letter + a two-digit number.

o Each bleach “tag” is unique to the individual seal.

o The high visibility of bleach “tags” prevents people from getting too close to take a photo or to attempt to read the small flipper tags that are applied to many seals.

o The bleach mixture does not harm the seal, and most seals are none the wiser about receiving it, as they tend to sleep through the process. There is no permanent mark left on the seal and there will be a fresh unmarked coat at the next molt. Harm to the environment is also unlikely. Such a small amount of bleach is used and it oxidizes so rapidly that much or all of the “bleach” has been dried and neutralized before the seal returns to the water.  

PC: J. Thomton
PC: J. Thomton
PC: J. Thomton
PC: J. Thomton
PC: J. Thomton
PC: J. Thomton

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