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Archive for the ‘Mahalo-eha/RA36’ Category

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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Field Notes: Nov/Dec 2010

Happy New Year from the Kauai Hawaiian Monk Seal Conservation Hui!!  It’s been a busy time of year for us and the seals!

R6FY, a juvenile male first sighted in July 2010, was seen several times in November around PMRF.  He looks thin and close to molting – very green.  When Hawaiian monk seals molt, they lose their entire outer layer of skin and fur.  Scientists have found that the seals also have elevated levels of stress hormones during this once-a-year event.  He was observed several times 
to be exhibiting an interesting behavior – kind of a repeated “swallowing” 
as he fell asleep after stirring.  R6FY does not seem to be in distress, nor does he appear to have any obstructions to eating or breathing.  We are not alarmed about this little guy, but are certainly keeping close eye on him.  If you see him, please photograph him; take a good look at his body for molting, which usually starts around the face and other extremities; and report him to us immediately.

We had several sightings this fall of a large untagged female seal on the north shore, with bleach mark V23.  Bleach marks are applied to the fur of Hawaiian monk seals so that we can identify them from a distance.  The mark is made with the same kind of hair bleach we humans use, and we are specially trained and permitted to apply the bleach without even waking up the seal!  She has had this bleach number for the past year, and since she molted, Mimi re-applied it in November.  V23 did roll onto her fresh bleach, but her mark seems to have stuck, as she was sighted recently as “V23.”

Our youngest seals, RT12 and RA36, have been seen quite frequently at Larsen’s and Aliomanu beaches, respectively.   We have even had a couple of sightings of an untagged male weaned pup on the 
east side in the past couple of months.  We suspect that this is RK30’s latest Miloli’i pup, born on April 17, 2010, but since we were never able to flipper-tag him, we can’t be sure.  Mimi was able to bleach him in December – now he
is V014!  All are looking very healthy.

Still no new pup!  In mid-December, after getting a good look at expectant mom RK12 in person, we predict that she will not likely give birth until January. Nonetheless, we have had the “maternity truck” packed and ready to go for over a week, and we’ve been keeping an eye on RK12’s usual birth sites.

As a holiday gift to everyone from the Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center’s Monk Seal Research Program, here is some of the exciting information we are learning from the cell phone tags applied to four seals in 2010!  These tags are helping us understand how the seals in the main Hawaiian islands use their habitat.  Enjoy!

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RT12 has his Hawaiian name!  He is Kimo Kai, or “Sleepy Ocean”, named by (and after) vacationing volunteer Jim Maser when RT12 was just a couple of weeks old.   After checking with our Hawaiian cultural practitioners, we have now made it official!

Mahalo-eha (RA36) has been spotted back at his natal beach, Maha’ulepu!

Hawaiian monk seals

Photo credit: Michele Bane

Love is in the air for Kauai’s seals!  We have seen lots of male-female pairs hauled out, entering, and exiting the water together lately.  Some of these included large adult female RK13 with Oahu/Kauai male RO18; scarred female RK30 with our old, dominant male TT40, seven-time mom RK12 with young adult male R4DI, and Oahu male Kermit (RO12) with an unidentified female.   Even little juvenile Kaikoa (RA00) has been seen several times with subadult male RV18, though this pair is too young to mate!

Kermit (RO12), as mentioned above, has returned to Kauai.  But check out what he was doing this summer!!  He had a 2000-mile journey into the pelagic (open-ocean) realm!

Hawaiian monk seal journey

Back on the east shore of Kauai, Kermit lost his cell-phone tag. Thanks to one of our observant and thorough volunteers finding the tag in the sand, we can now learn more about Kermit’s adventure and reuse his tag to track another seal!

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Pup-watch has ended for RT12!  He has still been sighted frequently at Larsen’s beach, but has also left the area for several days at a time.  Keep your eyes peeled for this little roly-poly – he’s still vulnerable to learning the wrong way to coexist with people on the beach!!

The “unidentified” adult male seal fitted with a cell-phone tag last month turns out to be RO18, a known seal who often travels back and forth between Kauai and Oahu.  He went straight back to Oahu after being tagged on Kauai, but returned to Kauai for most of July and spent his time here with adult female RK13.  Previously thought to be pregnant, RK13 is now showing appearance and behavior cues indicating otherwise.

Adult female 5AY, previously expected to pup on Kauai this summer, had a pup on Oahu instead!  We may not have any more Kauai newborns until winter!

Mahalo-eha (RA36) has still been hanging out on the east shore, and one day this month decided to haul out right onto the Fuji Beach boat ramp!  This is not a safe place for a seal to rest!  Mahalo-eha is still in the impressionable life stage during which he could either learn to be a wild seal, or to be a human-friendly seal.   If he learns that it is a positive thing to approach humans, then he will be attracted to his own greatest threats:  boats, propellers, hooks, nets, and people who don’t realize how special monk seals are. Dr. Mimi Olry used special equipment and aversive conditioning techniques to discourage him from resting on the boat ramp, for his and the public’s safety.  Please note that changing the behavior of a Hawaiian monk seal is against state and federal law without the proper permits, which Dr. Olry has.

Pohaku (RO28) has been spending quite a bit of time on the island at Poipu Beach Park – every day for the past 2 weeks!  She may be getting ready to molt, or she may just be repeating her typical behavior of finding and sticking to a favorite resting spot!

The PIFSC monk seal research team visited Kauai this month, hoping to fit more seals with cell-phone tags to study their movements and dive behavior.  The criteria for this procedure are pretty strict:  the seal must be hauled out in a sandy spot safe for restraint. It must be restrained during the cooler parts of the day.   The seal cannot be too young, too small, pregnant, nursing, molting, near-molting, or otherwise already stressed.  These criteria are all for the seals’ health and safety.  Our team encountered quite a few seals on this trip, but unfortunately only one fit all the criteria: adult male RK02.  Even more unfortunately for the team, RK02 is a clever seal who eluded the researchers not once but TWICE!  He made a run for the water both times.   Better luck next time, PIFSC!

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T12 wakes up from a nap just long enough to scratch his face.

Our first Kauai pup of the year, male RT12, is weaned, tagged, chubby, healthy, and exploring.  He has found some companionship in adult male RK02; they are often hauled out on the beach together.

T12 shows off his new bling.

Our second pup is also weaned and healthy.  He is also a confirmed male!  This little boy was too busy playing in the water to get tagged at our last attempt, so keep your eyes out for a relatively short and fat untagged pup!  We would love another opportunity to tag him before he grows up and begins to look like so many other young seals around the island!

‘Tis the season for more pups, too!  Females RK13, Temp 365, R5AY, and large unidentified female with a distinctive white “chin” area are all likely pregnant and pupping this summer!

Momona (RA20) and Noho (RA16) both celebrated their first birthdays this month, and both seals were spotted on their respective birthdays!  It’s wonderful to see these kids growing up healthy!!

Mahalo-eha (RA36), our 7-month-old Maha’ulepu pup, has been hanging out along the east shore these days, often seen at Nukoli’i and Fuji Beaches.

One unidentified adult male seal was fitted with a cell-phone tag by the NOAA PIFSC team on June 9, 2010.  The tag records GPS data and depth to help us understand the seals’ movement and foraging behavior. The seal also now has flipper tags 6FA/6FB, and his tag tells us that he headed straight for Oahu after receiving his tag.

RO28 has received her Hawaiian name: she is “Pohaku“, which means “rock.”  Pohaku frequently hauls out in the rocky areas around Poipu.  She is also a “rock” for our monk seal population – a healthy female, and daughter of RK06, another beloved strong female seal.

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