Archive for March, 2023

Monk Seal Matriarchs #186: RK30’s Lineage

RK30 - Hawaiian monk seal with multiple scars.

One of the most remarkable and identifiable Hawaiian monk seals was none other than a female known as RK30. RK30 was first identified by the Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center as an adult in 2004/5. She was last seen in November 2019 after giving birth that summer and never recovering her body condition. She was estimated to be, at least, 20 years old. In those 20 years, she collected quite a few scars and stories. She possessed a distinct personality and pupped 11 times. 

In January 2018, this profile of RK30 was published. 

Here is a recap of her progeny and their status:

2006: RO26, female, born at remote beach along Napali Coast. Was sighted frequently on north shore for a year. Then, disappeared.

2008:  RW06, female, born at remote beach on the south shore. Seen frequently at Poipu On March 13, 2016, she spent the night at Poipu and aborted a fetus. The placenta was tested for infectious disease agents. She stayed at Poipu 3 days, and was eventually diagnosed with placentitis that resolved on its own. RW06 was regularly reported on the south side in 2017, but never seen again after Nov. 2017.

2009:  Newborn pup born at remote beach on along Napali Coast. Tour boat operators witnessed pup struggling in rough onshore break. RK30 tried multiple times to lead and call pup back to beach. She succeeded once, but pup never made it back to the beach.

2010: Unknown pup born at remote beach along Napali Coast in late summer. By the time RK30 weaned pup, winter waves made it too unsafe for a crew to journey out to tag pup/weaner. Could be pup/weaner was tagged as a juvenile.

2011: RK56, male, born at a remote beach along Napali. Found dead October 2012 at Mahaulepu with slide bait hook and line ingested.

2012:  RL24, male, born on a remote beach on the north shore. Disappeared.

2014:  RF30, female, born on a remote beach on the north shore. Seen infrequently on the east shore.

2016:  RH38, female, born at a remote beach along Napali the day after RK30 was attacked by man at Salt Ponds. In 2017, RH38 was sent to Ke Kai Ola (Monk Seal Hospital) for thin body condition/parasite load. In 2019, she was admitted back to Ke Kai Ola for a systemic infection, unknown trauma to rear end, and emaciation.

2017:  RJ36, male, born at a remote beach along Napali. In 2020, ingested fish hook and died.

2018:  RKA2, female, born at a remote beach on north shore. Seen frequently along the east shore.

2019: RL30, female, born at a remote beach along Napali. Last sighted October 2022. 

RK30 gave birth to mostly female pups. Sadly, six, possibly seven of her 11 progeny are dead.  However, the good news is her remaining four are healthy adult females entering their reproductive years.

Earlier this year, Dr. Mimi Olry was interviewed for this NOAA podcast about RK30 and other Kauai matriarchs here.

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It’s that time of year. Winter’s surf season on the north shore is winding down. The spring equinox is near. New leaf growth on mango trees are sprouting hope–and whetting appetites. And some really big Hawaiian monk seals are hauling their head bodies out of the buoyant sea and onto Kauai’s beaches. In other words, it’s near pupping season.

While Hawaiian monks seal will give birth any month of the year, the tendency is spring and summer. The gestation period is 10 to 11 months. Typically, a female Hawaiian monk seal only carries one pup at a time, but on the very rare occasion, twins have been recorded. A breeding female can give birth year after year after year, but it’s common for her to take off a year every now and then, too. This year, the estimated due dates of four regular “puppers” start in June.

RH58Kauai / Oahu7/25

Hawaiian monk seals have a tendency to give birth at their own natal birth site. So, often, we see pregnant monk seals on Kauai who get bigger and bigger and bigger, only to disappear for six or eight weeks, re-appearing looking very skinny and/or having recently molted. The deduction is that these are females who were born at Niihau and return there to give birth, much as RH58, also known as “Rocky” spends her adult days around Oahu and usually–but not always–returns to Kauai to give birth.

In fact, here are a few females who may be adding to the Hawaiian monk seal population–mysterious as they are–without their actual birthing events being confirmed: RK90, R371, R1KY, R337, and R1KM.

Here are recent photos of a very pregnant-looking R1KM. Will she pup on Kauai? Or elsewhere?

[Photo credit: J. Honnert.]

If you see any Hawaiian monk seal anywhere on Kauai, please photograph them (from a distance and without disturbing them) and forward photos to kauaiseals@gmail.com.

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Field Report: February 2023

Monthly Update: The Kauai team logged 249 seal sightings this month (252 in Jan, 239 in Dec, 243 in Nov, 277 in Oct, 400 in Sept). This included 37 individually identified seals.


·       Juvenile male R616 observed with severe laceration across base of muzzle. Closely assessed by staff, wounds exactly match previous seals injuries caused by hagfish trap cones. Seal monitored without intervention. Seal fully healed in 3 weeks. 

·       As many as 8 monk seals have been hauling out/socializing/fighting at Poipu Beach Park most days, and most of the seals are adult males. This is typical spring behavior at Poipu and continues to be a challenge for the volunteer team to manage.

·       AM RN30 chased off Mahaulepu Beach by an off-leash dog. No contact made. This beach continues to be a problem with off-leash dogs.

Molting: 4 seals molted this past month.

Bleach Marking: 5 seals were bleach marked.


·       Trained 3 new volunteers with Hui.

Research/Support of PIFSC

·       Logged all turtle tagging with MTBAP Data Form

·       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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