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Archive for December, 2022

PC: S. Rossiter.

Three weeks ago, we shared a scientific journal that published a paper on the first detection of polymastia in a Mediterranean monk seal. Then, last week, a report to the Kauai Hawaiian Monk Seal Conservation Hui resulted in this photo of an Hawaiian monk seal female with, possibly, five nipples (circled in orange).

This is the first known sighting of this untagged seal. She’s suspected to be a sub-adult, likely never pupped yet, so it’s unknown whether all five nipples express milk.

The existence of extra mammary glands is a condition known as polymastia.

Note: The yellow circle is believed to be a scar, not a nipple.

Hawaiian monk seals have been studied for over 30 years. Yet the discoveries and learning continue every day.

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RH58 and RK58 in 2018.

Many predictions came with the start of the new millennium, perhaps, save one: The birth of a female Hawaiian monk seal who would survive more than 22 years—and counting—and make a significant contribution to the recovery of the species. She was born in 2000 at Mahaulepu on the southeast coast of Kauai. Because that coastline is fairly rugged, it was decided to translocate her upon weaning to a spot that would give her as favorable a start in life as possible. This was back when the population of Hawaiian monk seals across the archipelago was declining every year and few were sighted in the Main Hawaiian Islands. When she was translocated, she was also flipper-tagged with RH58 on her left flipper and RH59 on her right. Both have since broken off.

RH58, also known to some as “Rocky,” started her prolific pupping history at age six. Since then, she’s pupped 14 times, skipping only three years. Eight of those pups were female. Six of the 14 are still regularly sighted, although they now range across the main Hawaiian Islands. The collective of RH58’s pups illustrate the many challenges facing Hawaiian monk seals in the Main Hawaiian Islands.

Here’s a recap and status of her offspring.

2006: RO12, male, last known sighting 2007.

2007: RB00, female, spends most of her time around Hawaii Island, returning to Kauai to pup.

2009: RA00, female, required veterinary intervention to investigate due to weight loss, disappeared 2011.

2010: RT12, male, died in 2016 on Oahu likely due to drowning in a fisheries interaction.

2011: RK52, female, birthed two pups (the first stillborn; the second, RL52, was thriving until her death due to suspicious circumstances. Hasn’t been seen since February 2021.

2012: RL17, female. Died from unknown causes.

2013: RN44, male. Has become one of the dominant males on Kauai, routinely seen all over the island.

2014: RF58, female. Survived a dog attack that left her with more than 60 bite marks on her body and lead to several abscesses. A NOAA veterinary team administered antibiotics. Unfortunately, RF58 died in a suspicious incident when she was less than one year old. 

2015: RG58, male. Currently THE dominant male on Kauai. Seen all over the island, constantly proving that he’s the man.

2017: RJ58, female, known as “Kaimana,” because she was born at Kaimana Beach, Waikiki, Oahu; first known seal born at Waikiki. She was translocated at weaning and is doing well on Oahu. 

2018: RK58, male. After numerous pup-switches that left him in a vulernable situaiton, he was raised at Ke Kai Ola on Hawaii Island and subsequently released into the wild. In 2021, he was attacked by dogs and went back to Ke Kai Ola for rehabilitation. He is currently thriving and commonly sighted around Kauai.

2019: RL58, female. Last seen on Kauai in Nov. 2020.

2020: RM58, female. Doing great. Routinely seen around Kauai.

2022: RQ58, male. Born at Kaimana Beach in Waikiki on Oahu. He was translocated upon weaning and is currently doing well on Oahu.

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Field Report: November 2022

Update: 

The Kauai team logged 243 seal sightings this month. This included 30 individually identified seals.

  • November: 243
  • October: 277
  • September: 400
  • August: 320
  • July: 311
  • June: 283
  • May: 248
  • April: 294
  • March: 292
  • February: 233
  • January: 233
  • December: 267
  • November: 168

New:

·       A dog barked at and chased a seal into the water at Salt Pond Beach Park. No contact was made between the seal and dog. DOCARE quickly responded and issued a citation to the dog owner who made no attempt to intervene and continued to allow the dog to roam freely. 

Updates:

·       Five large dogs harassed and possibly bit two adult seals at Makua (a.k.a Tunnels Beach) near Cannon’s surf break. It appeared one man brought all five dogs to the beach and allowed them to run off leash and did very little to stop them from harassing and chasing the seal off the beach. Photos were submitted of the dogs’ owner, and sent to DOCARE, OLE, and Humane Society for further action. All seals seen in the area since are in good health and show no signs of dog bite injuries.

·       Continue to closely monitor yearling RP32 who is in thin body condition. The seal is likely in pre-molt and has been hauling out at his birth beach.

Molting: Two seals molted this past month.

Bleach Marking: Five seals were bleach marked (many new Niihau seals in the Poipu area).

Vaccination: Booster vaccinated weaned pup RQ78.

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