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Archive for the ‘K52/K53’ Category

Hawaiian monk seals can pup anytime throughout the year, but the majority tend to do so in the spring and summer. Typically, at the start of the year, our team starts tracking pregnant females, watching out for the regulars like RH58, RK30, and RK13. But the list will also include others and can tally more than 10. But we’ve yet to hit double digits in annual pup births on Kauai—at least, in recent history. There are likely moms who miscarry and others (like RK52) who produce stillborn pups. But a handful of pregnant females seem to disappear right before they give birth. Then, they return six or eight weeks later looking thin.

In science, “philopatry” is the tendency for an animal to stay or habitually return to the same place. “Natal philopatry” is the tendency for an animal to return to their birthplace to breed. In the case of Hawaiian monk seals, we often—but not always—see females return to their birthplace to pup. 

The Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program estimate approximately 300 of the endangered pinnipeds make their home in the Main Hawaiian Islands. On Kauai, we roughly estimate 50, although some seals do make inter-island trips. The island associated with the greatest number of monk seals is Niihau—at 150. Roughly 15 ocean miles separate Kauai from our neighbor island of Niihau. This is not a considerable journey for monk seals. In 2010, one monk seal outfitted with a tracking device made a 2,000-mile pelagic journey. So, for monk seals, 15 miles might be considered a walk in the park. And this can explain why 10 pregnant seals sighted on Kauai beaches results in five pups born on Kauai. A few return to their birth place on Niihau when it’s time for them to pup.

Here’s some data to illustrate:

RK14: A Kauai regular who was observed in 2017 with a pup on Niihau. RK14’s window of absence from Kauai was 8/16/17 to 11/23/17, but she isn’t sighted routinely–she likes to haul out on remote North Shore and Na Pali beaches, so her absence was most likely shorter.

R1KY: A Kauai regular who was observed in 2017 with a pup on Niihau. R1KY’s window of absence from Kauai was 4/8/17 to 6/16/17. In 2018 she wasn’t sighted on Kauai from 5/30/18 to 7/17/18, but no surveys happened on Niihau during this window so we’re unsure if she pupped. Here are before and after photos of her.

R1KY on 04182018R1KY on 07172018

R313: In 2017, she disappeared from 7/26/17 until 9/23/17, looking very large in July, but still pretty big when she came back, so we’re not sure what happened during that time. In 2018, she looked large and had teats protruding on 6/26/18 and was next sighted back on Kauai on 9/1/18 looking thin. 

In 2017, RK28 was on Kauai with teats protruding on 6/5/17, then gone until 8/24/17 when she was reported as “thin.” In 2018 she pupped on Kauai’s North Shore.

In 2018, RK90 likely pupped on Niihau between 12/28/17 and 2/17/18.

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IMG_0321The eighteen-year-old Hawaiian monk seal known to science as RH58 but more commonly known to thousands of her fans as “Rocky” has returned to Kaua`i and given birth to her 11th pup on a remote stretch of coastline where she has pupped nine previous times.

That news has allowed many, many, many people in the Hawaiian monk seal world to breathe a sign of relief, because they won’t have to worry quite as much about the health and safety of mom and pup and beachgoers as they did last year when Rocky surprised everyone by pupping on busy Waikiki Beach. (Reminder: Protective moms have been known to charge snorkelers and swimmers in the water, so steer clear.)

RH58 nurses pupRocky herself was born on another beach on Kaua`​i back in 2000. At some point in her adulthood, she crossed the 70-mile-wide Ka`ie`iewaho Channel and spends much of her adult life navigating the waters and coastline of O`ahu.

She gave birth on the shores of Kaua`i for the first time in 2006 when she was six years of age.

She continued to live on O`​ahu and pup on Kaua`i with little to no trouble (or drama!) until four years ago.

RH58 nuzzles pupIn 2014, Rocky and her pup were involved in a dog(s) attack. Her pup (RF58) received over 60 bite marks on her body, developing a couple abscesses around her neck. A NOAA veterinary team responded with antibiotics. (This was the same attack in which RK28‘s young pup was killed.) Remember, it’s a state law that all dogs on beaches must be leashed.

Then, in 2017, Rocky pupped on Waikiki Beach, igniting her headline-making days and introducing Hawaiian monk seals to tens of thousands of visitors from across the globe. Their first few weeks together were live-streamed by a local media outlet, and the pupping event sparked numerous Facebook fan pages.

In January 2018, Rocky became a grandmother for the first time when her female pup–RB00–gave birth to a pup (R00K) on Lāna`i. Then, she almost became a grandmother a second time when RK52 pupped earlier this year. Unfortunately, that pup was stillborn. RK52 was born in 2011 and officials have hopes she will give birth to many healthy pups in the future.

Hawaiian monk seals can live to be 25 to 30 years old in the wild, so there’s a good chance Rocky will continue to contribute to the recovery of her species in the years to come. Perhaps Rocky’s next great headline will come in six or seven years when she, RB00, and R00K all three pup in the same year. Now, that would be big news.

Keep returning to this page. Photos and video will be added throughout the next few days.

Meanwhile, if you’d like a historical review of Rocky’s whereabouts when she’s on O`ahu, try searching for “RH58” on the Monk Seal Mania website.

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Last week, PK1 became RK42. She now sports a set of red tags in her rear flippers. The left tag reads K42 and the right tag reads K43. At the same time she was flipper-tagged, morphometric measurements were taken. RK42’s axillary girth (circumference of body just below her fore flippers) came in at 100cm while her length from the tip of her nose to the tip of her tail was 126cm.

In other pup news, here is the final report of the necropsy (animal autopsy) of RK52’s pup that was found dead on a North Shore beach on April 24th:

  • The pup’s total length (104.5cm) indicated that it was a full-term pup, and was not premature.
  • Histopathology confirmed the pup as stillborn – in other words, there was no air inflating the lungs and this indicates that it never took a breath of air outside the mother’s uterus.
  • There was also evidence of mild fetal distress (cells and amniotic fluid that were aspirated into the lung tissue) leading to hypoxia (lack of oxygenation of vital tissues). While not severe, this does lead us to conclude that the pup died in utero and likely due to dystocia, or difficulty in the birthing process.
  • Histopathology did not identify any evidence of underlying disease.
Sadly, this is not an uncommon finding, especially for first-time moms like RK52. The hopeful news is that females who lose their first pup in this manner often go on to have healthy pups in subsequent years. The other thing this event reveals is that RK52 is fertile and able to carry a pup to full-term.

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Sightings:

The Kauai team logged 303 seal sightings this month. This included 30 individually identified seals.

April: 303
March: 299
Feb: 259
Jan: 336

New:

  • RK13 gave birth to PK1 on 4/20/2018. Extensive monitoring was immediately set-up and continues. Unfortunately, the location is notorious for off-leash dogs and past conflict between beach users and the monk seal program. Thus far, only minor issues have risen. Pup continues to thrive.
  • RK52 gave birth to stillborn female pup. This was RK52’s first birth. Carcass was sent to Oahu for necropsy.

Updates:

  • NG00 was re-sighted once this month and is likely still hooked. (See previous monthly updates for background.)
  • Poipu Keiki Pool: 2 displacements took place this month.
  • Bleach markings: 2 seals bleach marked this month.
  • Molting activity: one seal continues to molt this month.

Research/Support of Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center:

  • Sub-sampled scat, molt, and tissue plug samples.
  • Logged all seal sightings. Thomton organized photos and reported sightings, molt tallies, survival factors to send to PIFSC.

 

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Field Report: Summer 2012

All four of our 2012 pups are successfully weaned, tagged, exploring, and mingling with other seals!

Credit: Langley

In early July, RL10, the oldest of the four, was relocated from her birth site at Aliomanu Road to the more remote sands of Waipake Beach on the northeast shore. Conveniently, her new site was near the birth sites of the other three pups! The relocation was done for RL10’s safety; Aliomanu was a hazardous location for several reasons, the main ones being proximity to the road and high human use. Mahalo nui loa to our veterinarian for flying over from Oahu to assist with this effort; to our Kupuna for her prayers, chants and elbow grease; to our volunteers for helping to execute the relocation; to vacation renters and property managers for granting us access through their properties; and to assorted members of the public for their spontaneous help. It takes a village to move a seal!

RL10’s mom, RK13, continues to be of concern. We are glad to report that she successfully molted at Mahaulepu Beach and has put on quite a few pounds since weaning RL10, but she is still thin. Now that the stressful process of molting is behind her, we’re hoping that she will start to gain more weight.

RL14’s mom, RK22, has been spotted several times on Kauai since weaning him. Her weight looks very good, she is 100% molted, and she was recently attended by adult male RK36 (of hook-swallowing fame, and still sporting his cell and satellite tracking tags) in the Anahola area.

RH58’s female pup was weaned on June 26, after 38 days of nursing; and was flipper tagged L17/L16, making her permanent ID number RL17. RH58 (a.k.a. “Rocky”) has traveled back to Oahu, her usual stomping grounds.

Credit: Langley

RK30’s male pup was weaned on July 10, after 45 days of nursing; and was flipper tagged L24/L25; giving him the permanent ID number RL24. Mom RK30 is in excellent condition and looks like she will begin her molt very soon. She was most recently observed at Salt Pond Beach Park, and was recently attended by Oahu adult male RO20 (a.k.a. “Kermit”.)

All four pups have still been observed in the Lepeuli/Waipake area, but the oldest three (RL10, RL14, and RL17) have occasionally left the area to explore new beaches to the north and south.

Juvenile female RK52 (“Rocky”’s 2011 pup) has spent most of the past year on the north shore between Ke’e and Tunnels, but has returned to her birthplace (Waipake) for her first molt. As of this writing, she is about 30% molted.

Credit: Lee

Juvenile male R6FQ began his molt several months ago, but has not completed it. Usually, monk seals only take about a week to lose their outer layer of fur and skin in their yearly “catastrophic” molt, but it’s not unheard of for a young animal to have a patchy molt like this. We are keeping a close eye on R6FQ (flipper tags 6FQ/6FO) to be sure his uneven molt is not a sign of a health concern.

It’s with sorrow that we report both the appearance and disappearance of a new seal to our island. Yearling male Temp V17 was first seen this summer on the east shore of Kauai, and given the bleach number “V17” by our DLNR specialist on June 15. On July 30, Temp V17 was found dead in the Wailua area. Local fishermen reported the carcass and graciously led us through blessings and prayers for the seal on the beach before we removed the carcass. Necropsy did not reveal a clear cause of death, but no evidence of human interaction was observed.

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Hawaiian monk seal RK13

Photo credit: Michele Bane

We have had several reports of seals swimming up into canals on the east shore over the past few weeks.  In particular, RK13 has been observed “logging” 
(resting at the surface of the water) in a canal near the Kapa’a Library.  Both 
freshwater activity (and the health hazards presented therein) and logging 
are behaviors of concern for Hawaiian monk seals.  Please be sure to report 
both immediately, so that our staff can respond and observe the behavior(s) 
in person.

RK13 is of special concern, and we are monitoring her very closely.  She 
has two new injuries (first observed 12/7), consistent with shark bites.  One is near her left 
foreflipper, which she did not appear to be using for the first couple of weeks.  The other is on the underside of her 
right side.   Neither wound is life-threatening, they are not very deep, 
and both are showing quite a bit of healing progress.   She began hauling out on sand again in Kapaa town on 
12/11, but has also continued to visit canals.  She rests peacefully in the Kapaa Library canal, but had a rough day in the canal near the Bull Shed 
restaurant on 12/13.  The canal was a couple of feet deep when she entered 
it early in the day, but by afternoon it was down to a few inches of water. 
RK13 galumphed all the way up the canal behind the Safeway shopping center, 
and struggled to get out of the sludgy mud.  It was awful to watch, but 
handling her would have been more stressful and likely less successful than 
letting her work her way through.  She did figure it out, and worked her way slowly (lots of rest breaks!) back to the ocean.  Since then, she has 
hauled out on sand in Kapaa, Anahola and Moloaa, and also spent a few 
more days in the Kapaa Library Canal.  She is using her left foreflipper normally 
again, starting on Christmas Eve!  Thanks for that holiday gift, RK13!

RK30 (adult female, entanglement scar around neck and large scar on side), 
interestingly enough, was observed in two different Kapaa canals on 
12/29.  Careful 
not to get these two ladies confused!

Hawaiian monk seal RK56

Photo credit: Michele Bane

Another two seals who have flipped the switch on us are RK56 (weaner male, exhibiting curiosity toward humans in November) and RK52 (weaner female, 
born at Larsen’s, April 2011)!  RK56 was most recently seen today at Nukoli’i on the east shore, and RK52 has been observed twice in 
Hanalei.  Careful not to assume identity on these little seals – they’re on the move!  RK52 
has been hauling up very high and looking for trouble; last week she hauled out under a plastic chair, and the next day under a wire fence!  Thankfully, 
she was not entangled.

RB24 (subadult female who lost weight earlier this year) continues to look improved!  Her body condition is back to normal.

R313 (adult female, formerly Temp V23) received a new “V23” bleach mark 
while PIFSC’s Mark Sullivan was on island visiting.  Thanks, Mark!   R313 has been observed from Larsen’s to Ke’e.

At sunset on Christmas Eve, we received a report of a seal entangled in a net in the rocks behind the Beach House restaurant in Lawai.   The entanglement
turned out to be a false alarm; the juvenile tagged seal was just investigating the lay-gillnet in the water.   DoCARE reports that any net is illegal if it is either (1) left unattended, or (2) still set after sunset.  This net was both, so law enforcement is working to identify the net and remove it.

On 12/28, at sunset again, we had another report of a lay-gillnet set about 50 yards down the beach from a hauled-out seal, this time at Ke’e 
Beach.  One of our volunteers was present and spoke with the fishers, but they left the net in place.  Luckily, R313 (adult female bleached V23) did not get entangled. 
We saw her hauled out nearby the next day.

Hawaiian monk seal A20

Photo credit: M. Miyashiro

RA20 (juvenile female born at Larsen’s in 2009, a.k.a. “Momona”, rarely 
seen) has been observed on the south and east shores recently!  She is 
clearly not accustomed to being near humans; she is very sensitive, and was disturbed off of the Courtyard Marriott beach twice yesterday by beachgoers walking past her too closely.

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Happy Summer from the Kauai Hawaiian Monk Seal Conservation Hui!

Hawaiian monk seal and marine debris

Photo credit: Mary Werthwine

On June 13, juvenile male seal RA36 was reported with a decaying water bottle stuck to his face!  Luckily, the bottle was open at both ends, so RA36 could breathe, but he could not eat or use his whiskers.  Our team mobilized immediately to try to remove the bottle, and RA36 ended up dislodging it himself by knocking his head on our rescue equipment and causing the bottle to pop off!

June brought the PIFSC Monk Seal Research team to Kauai!  Their goals were to apply flipper tags to our newly weaned pups, to apply cell phone tags to more seals, and to conduct health assessments on a couple seals of concern.  They succeeded on all fronts!

Hawaiian monk seal on the beach

Photo credit: Lloyd Miyashiro

Our first 2011 Kauai pup’s new permanent ID number is RK54.  His brand-new tags read K54 and K55.  The second pup is female RK52, with tags reading K52 and K53.  RK52 is plumper than RK54, and is seen here exploring her own Seal Protection Zone!  When the weaned pups received their tags, they were also measured and given pit tags (like your pets’ microchips.)

Adult male RK36, with flipper tags 4DI/4DJ, was fitted with a cell phone tag.   We use the cell phone tags to monitor habitat use, dives and foraging behavior!

The PIFSC team got to take a good look at our aging male seal TT40.  While his advanced age seems to be causing his body’s normal processes (like molting) to slow down, our vets and scientists agree that he looks great for his age.

We also assessed the health of subadult female RB24, who has been observed to be losing body condition (i.e., getting thinner).  The cause of her weight loss has not yet been determined, but results of her blood samples, tissue samples and de-worming medication should help us learn more.

At the end of June, we rode out to Miloli’i to flipper-tag our third Kauai pup of the year.  This little male’s permanent number is RK56, and his tags say K56 and K57.  Special thanks to PIFSC and DLNR’s Department of Boating and Ocean Recreation for making this tagging trip possible!

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