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Archive for the ‘K52/K53’ Category

During a weekend in April 2018, a record-setting storm ravaged Kaua’i. Not a square yard of the island was spared. Lightning lit up the sky. Thunder shook the walls of homes down to their foundation. Streams swelled into rivers and rivers into raging water racing for the ocean, sweeping away homes and cars and, even, buffalo en route.

The hardest hit was a stretch of approximately eight miles on the North Shore, beginning just west of Hanalei and stopping at the road’s end at Ke’e. When it was all said and done, one rain gauge measured a 24-hour rainfall of a whopping 49.7 inches. A U.S. record. All that rain triggered rockslides, ripped out sections of the road, and damaged bridges, instantly making Historic Highway 560 impassable. The road closure reduced the number of people on Haena’s beaches from 3,000 to, maybe, three daily.

With so few people on the beach, there was little need for volunteers to help with outreach. However, a few stalwart volunteers who live in the area continued to scout for seals, conducting health assessments and providing reports to the Kauai Hawaiian Monk Seal Conservation Hui.

On Monday, June 17, 2019 the road re-opened to the public for the first time, and by 8:30 in the morning, RK52 was reported on the beach. She’s a regular there. But R313, RK05, RH38, RK14 and several others have been sighted on these beaches, as well.

There are only a few volunteers in the Haena area; however, lifeguards and Haena residents often help out by setting up signs and monitoring seals. To prepare for the return of visitors now that the road is open and the beaches are filling up again, racks filled with signs are stationed every 200-300 yards beginning at Hanalei Colony Resort all the way to the very end of the road at Ke’e Beach Park. This is approximately a 4 mile stretch of beach. We welcome the assistance of all beach users to assist with educating visitors who may approach seals too closely or not understand that seals often haul-out and rest alone along this shoreline. If you’d like to become a trained volunteer, please call 808-651-7668.

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Every month, anywhere from 30 to 38 individual Hawaiian monk seals are reported to the Kauai Hawaiian Monk Seal Conservation Hui. But just who are these regulars? Here’s a look at the top ten most reported Hawaiian monk seal sightings on Kauai this year to date.

Keep in mind, many things affect this list. Monk seals often have favorite haul out locations. If a monk seal favors a location that happens to be easily accessible by humans, bingo, that seal will be reported more often to the hotline.

Then, of course, monk seal moms and their pups rack up a high number of reported sightings, because they stick to the same beach for weeks on end. As this list will also reveal, young monk seals–especially sub-adult males–are often sighted and reported, too.

  1. With 83 sightings, adult R7GM tops the list of most reported monk seal sightings on Kauai this year.  A female, it appears R7GM may be pregnant for the first time. If she pups on Kauai, her chances skyrocket for remaining at the top of this list for 2019.
  2. With 81 sightings, R3CX ranks second for the most reported monk seal sightings on Kauai. R3CX is a five-year-old male commonly seen roughhousing with other young males on Poipu Beach.
  3. With 65 sightings, RG58 ranks third for the most reported monk seal sightings on Kauai. RG58 is a four-year-old male who also prefers the busy beaches of Poipu. His mother is the renown RH58, also known as Rocky.
  4. With 56 sightings, RB00 ranks fourth for the most reported monk seal sightings on Kauai. The year’s first report of RB00 came two days before she gave birth. She nursed for 54 days and immediately left Kauai after weaning her pup. Recently, RB00 was sighted on Maui. RB00 also counts Rocky as her mother.
  5. With 53 sightings, RK52, yet another offspring of the prolific Rocky, ranks fifth on our list. She provided us with Kauai’s second pup of the year. She nursed for 36 days.
  6. With 53 sightings, RN44 ranks sixth for the most reported monk seal sightings on Kauai this year. He is a healthy six-year-old male, frequently sighted on his natal beach on the North Shore of the island. His mother is also Rocky.
  7. With 52 sightings, RL08 is the grandson of Rocky. He was born to RB00 earlier this year and nursed for a whopping 54 days.
  8. With 50 sightings, RK58 ranks eighth for the most reported monk seal sightings on Kauai this year. Another pup of Rocky’s, RK58 was abandoned by his mother in 2018 and spent several months in rehab at Ke Kai Ola before being released back on Kauai.
  9. With 41 sightings, RK30 ranks ninth for the most reported monk seal sightings on Kauai this year. RK30 is pushing 20 years of age. She’s also one of the most storied monk seals around, having survived many threats to her life. Read more about RK30 here.
  10. With 40 sightings, RG22 ranks tenth for the most reported monk seal sightings on Kauai this year. RG22 is another four-year-old male who loves to roughhouse with the boys at Poipu.

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Field Report: May

The Kauai team logged 262 seal sightings this month. This included 30 individually identified seals.

May: 262
April: 348
March: 350
Feb: 303
Jan: 284
Dec: 153
Nov: 145
Oct: 203
Sep: 199

New:

·       Off leash dogs continue to be an issue at several beaches. At Kiahuna Beach in Poipu a seal was chased off the beach by an off-leash dog, and another seal was chased off Fuji Beach by a dog that pulled free of the owner. Contact was not made between the dogs and seals and the seals were uninjured, however they were flushed off the beach and out of the area.

Updates:

·       Subadult female RH38 who was captured and sent to KKO for care continues to improve and we are optimistic that she will be released back on Kauai eventually, hopefully soon.

·       Adult female RK52 successfully weaned her pup PK2 after 36 days of nursing. The pup was tagged as L52/L53. The pup’s axillary girth was 100 cm. This pup has remained in his natal area and routinely interacts with several other seals in the area. He has been observed feeding on sea cucumbers and appears to be thriving.

·       Pup RL08 continues to haul out in his natal area, too, and is often observed feeding on sea cucumbers. The seal continues to thrive.

·       Displacements: No seals were displaced this month.

·       Bleach markings: 1 was applied this month.

·       Molting: no seals were observed molting this month.

·       Vaccinations: Pup RL52 was given the initial morbillivirus vaccination during flipper tagging.

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Last Friday, on “Endangered Species Day,” PK2 was tagged. He’s now officially known as RL52 with tags L52 (left) and L53 (right). At the same time, he was vaccinated against morbillivirus. His morphometrics (physical measurements) came in at 100 cm axillary girth and 115 cm standard length. He’s smaller than RL08, but he still he seems chubby, because he’s significantly shorter than L08, too. RL52 compares closely in weaning size with RK42, a yearling who was recently re-sighted looking nice and healthy.

RK52 weaned her pup after 36 days of nursing. This is shorter than the average of 42 over the past few years–common among first-time moms–but longer than 32 days, the shortest number of nursing days known on Kauai.

Volunteers report that post-weaning, RL52 has been swimming for hours at a time, while nosing around the nooks and crannies of rocks and tossing in the air “findings” from the ocean floor, sleeping, and basically being a normal “weaner.”

Here are some photos of RL08 the day before he was tagged.

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PC: J. Honnert

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PC: J. Honnert

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PC: J. Honnert

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PC: J. Honnert

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PC: J. Honnert

At the other end of the main Hawaiian Islands, the team at Ke Kai Ola provided an update on RH38 in a press release, as follows:

Veterinarians diagnose infection due to trauma in complex case of RH38, an endangered Hawaiian monk seal in rehabilitation at The Marine Mammal Center’s hospital for monk seals 

(Kailua-Kona, Hawai‘i – May 16, 2019) – Experts at The Marine Mammal Center report positive developments in the perplexing case of Hawaiian monk seal RH38. A CT scan performed in late- April showed muscle inflammation and infection in RH38’s back flippers, which spread to her bloodstream and caused a wide range of other problems. Based on the location and extent of the muscle damage, the Center’s veterinarians suspect trauma as the initial cause of the injury, though the source is unknown. 

“Wild animals mask pain and injury, so internal injuries can be well hidden, unlike more obvious external wounds,” says Dr. Claire Simeone, The Marine Mammal Center’s Hospital Director at Ke Kai Ola. “We’re elated to discover the diagnosis for this complex case, as each individual is critical to restoring this endangered population.” 

RH38 is stable, but remains in critical condition at Ke Kai Ola, The Marine Mammal Center’s hospital and visitor center in Kailua-Kona that is dedicated to the endangered marine mammal. The Center’s veterinary experts are currently treating her with antibiotics, pain medications and laser therapy, and are optimistic that she will continue to improve. 

The likely trauma that caused her injury may have been natural or human-induced, whether accidental or intentional. Natural causes of trauma include interactions with predators or other seals, and a variety of hazards such as debris in heavy surf and eroding rocks along shorelines where seals haul-out to rest. Accidental sources of trauma can include a boat strike or vehicle injury. While rare, there have been confirmed cases of intentional trauma inflicted on seals by people. 

“We always ask residents and visitors state-wide to be aware of seals that are or might be hauled out on beaches, for the safety of people and seals,” says Dr. Claire Simeone, The Marine Mammal Center’s Hospital Director at Ke Kai Ola. “We encourage beachgoers to share space with marine wildlife and report any interactions, whether accidental or intentional, so that responders can quickly assess the affected animal.” 

RH38 was molting at the time of her rescue, a natural annual process in which monk seals shed their hair and skin. Veterinarians suspect that some aspect of immunosuppression related to her molt may have played a role in her inability to deal with the infection caused by the trauma. 

As a result of her sepsis, RH38 had infections in a variety of organs. She has been successfully treated for pneumonia and corneal damage, both of which have resolved. She also developed a skin infection, kidney infection, resulting kidney stones and a liver infection, all of which are continuing to receive treatment and monitoring. 

The Kaua‘i Hawaiian Monk Seal Conservation Hui monitored RH38 over the past year and routinely observed her in good body condition. In March, she began to rapidly lose body condition. She was rescued from Kaua‘i on March 12, 2019, and transported via U.S. Coast Guard flight to Ke Kai Ola. During her initial critical care period, RH38 was tested for dozens of diseases, toxins and parasites. 

In late April, the Center’s staff and volunteers, along with a team from NOAA, transported RH38 to North Hawai‘i Community Hospital on Hawai‘i Island for a CT scan. The Center’s veterinary experts anesthetized her, and a scan was done on her entire body in order to more closely investigate the different organ systems that were showing signs of damage and pinpoint the source. This is the first CT scan ever performed on a wild Hawaiian monk seal. 

This is RH38’s second time in rehabilitation at The Marine Mammal Center. She was originally admitted to Ke Kai Ola in August of 2017 for malnutrition and a heavy parasite load. She more than doubled in body weight during her three-month rehabilitation and was successfully released back to Kaua‘i. Her current condition is not thought to be related to her original admit in 2017. 

The Marine Mammal Center’s work in Hawai‘i is dedicated to the conservation of Hawaiian monk seals. The Center is a member of the Pacific Islands Region Marine Mammal Response Network and is responsible for monitoring the seals that haul out on Hawai‘i Island. The Center’s marine science program, Nā Kōkua o ke Kai, serves students in grades 6 through 8 and their teachers on Hawai’i Island. Through community engagement, education, stranding response and animal care, their dedicated staff and volunteers are working to save a species. 

The Marine Mammal Center has rehabilitated 27 monk seals since opening Ke Kai Ola in 2014.The Center is proud to partner with NOAA to support conservation efforts for the Hawaiian monk seal. NOAA researchers estimate the current monk seal population to be about 1,400 animals, and about 30 percent of those monk seals are alive today directly due to conservation efforts led by NOAA and its partners. 

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No sooner than RB00 weaned her pup and RL08 was tagged than eight-year-old RK52 gave birth to a healthy pup on April 9th. After several days of observation, it’s been reported that PK2 is a boy. That makes two males for 2019.

RK52 is proving to be a solid mother, consistently chasing away other curious seals such as chunky RL08 and several other juvenile seals in the area. She was rather tolerant of them being within 10 feet of the pup for the first week, but her patience seems to be wearing thin over the past week, and she is now consistently shooing away others seals with aggressive posturing and vocalizations. The pup is a strong swimmer and is quickly gaining weight. Both mom and pup are doing well.

You may recall that RK52 gave birth to a stillborn pup last year. As far as we know, this is her second pup.

Both pups of 2019 are descendants of the legendary RH58, called by many as Rocky. RH58 herself appears pregnant again this year. As does another Kauai regular, RO28, so we can likely expect a couple more pups this summer.

Here are a few images of PK2’s first days of life.

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PC: Gary Langley

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PC: Gary Langley

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PC: Gary Langley

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PC: Gary Langley

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PC: Gary Langley

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PC: Gary Langley

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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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