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Field Report: June

Updates for our Kauai seals and pups.

RK30 weaned her pup, PK1. This pup most likely nursed 49 to 50 days, making this a very big pup. On Monday, June 27th, she was tagged and vaccinated and is now, officially, RH38, (tags H38/ H39).

Milolii pup (ScubaTomPhotography)2

RH38

RK22 weaned her pup, PK2, on Sunday, July 2, after 41 days of nursing.

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PK2 (Photo credit: G. Langley)

RO28 arrived from Oahu and pupped, PK3 on June 15. Both are doing well.

RO28 and PK3-3-2

PK3’s first recorded nursing bout with RO28.

Vaccinating seals on Kauai.

The Kauai coordinators are in the process of vaccinating Kauai seals against Morbillivirus, a disease that causes measles in humans and distemper in dogs. To protect our rare Hawaiian monk seals, the first ever vaccination of wild seals has been initiated, as epidemics of this deadly virus have devastated other seal species populations around the world. So far, 13 Kauai seals have received their initial vaccination and some their second booster shot. We are now earnestly looking to booster several male seals, and volunteers can assist us by looking out for RF28 ( red tags, and transmitter on his back, on the north and east sides of Kauai), and N1AA (black tags on the south and west sides of the island). Also, RN30, R8HY subadult males found primarily on the east side often Ahukini cove.
Here is a video of how seals are vaccinated. We will put out a list as time goes on, to identify which seals we are looking for to booster in the 3-5 week window and would truly appreciate assistance in looking for them.

RF28 and RF30 released and doing well.

On May 27, RF28, a juvenile male seal, was found with an ingested hook that was successfully removed on Oahu by a veterinary team. He was soon released back on Kauai with a transmitter on June 2.

RF28(MaryFrances)

RF28 (Photo credit: M. Miyashiro)

RF28 locations

Dive data RF28

A week later, we were surprised to find another internally hooked seal, RF30, a juvenile female! She was located at the Poipu county beach park keiki pool where she was logging and acting strangely. A team was assembled for a water capture using fence panels and crowding boards. This challenging capture was successful due to our many fine volunteers that rallied on a very short notice. Without volunteers to find and assist with capturing these injured seals, none of these successes would be possible! We supremely need and appreciate all our volunteers! RF30 was also transported to Oahu by a US Coast Guard C-130. She was found to have some swelling in the throat where the hook was lodged and at the base of the tongue. It was successfully removed using an endoscope and specially designed tools. Four days later RF30 was flown back to Kauai and released on the east side of the island where she normally resides. Both seals are fitted with satellite tags that are solar powered.

RF30 release (MaryFrances)2

RF30 (Photo credit: M. Miyashiro)

RF30 locations

Dive data RF30

Tag (LloydMiyashiro)

Photo credit: L. Miyashiro

Other marine species:
News from NOAA Fisheries Sea turtle program. If you see a honu or ‘ea on the beach or in the water, please remember:

  • View sea turtles from a distance of 10 feet (3 meters). In Hawai‘i, we view turtles respect- fully. Give turtles space and don’t feed, chase, or touch them.
    Hawaiian honu bask on the beach. This is normal behavior. Don’t try to
    push them back into the water.
  • “It’s OK to help!” Fishermen, check your gear often, use barbless circle hooks and adhere to state gillnet rules. If safe for both you and the turtle, release accidentally caught turtles by fol- lowing these steps:
  1. REEL-IN the turtle carefully
  2. HOLD by its shell or flippers
  3. CUT LINE as close to the hook as possible, and
  4. RELEASE with no (or as little) gear or line attached.
  • “No white light at night.” Use wildlife friendly lighting near the coast (yellow/amber and shielded lights). Don’t use flash photography, and keep lights and beach fires to a minimum from May to December, when turtles are nesting hatchlings are emerging.
  • Avoid beach driving. Off-road vehicles crush nests, create tire ruts that trap hatchlings, and degrade habitats. Driving on the beach is also illegal in most areas.
    Prevent debris and rubbish from entering the ocean. Participate in beach and reef cleanup activities.
  • Report all hawksbill sea turtle sightings, any nesting activity (turtle tracks or nest digging), and injured or dead turtles to NOAA’s Sea Turtle Stranding Hotline on Kaua‘i: (808) 274-3344.
  • Report illegal or suspicious activity that may result in turtle injury or death by calling the Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE) at
    (808) 587-0077 or 643-DLNR.

 

 

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(P)update #33

RK22 and PK3 had one long swim of about three hours and four feedings today.

Once mom weans pup, she’ll head out to sea to fill her empty belly with lobster, octopus, flat fish, and eels. Monk seals are known as benthic feeders, because they typically forage along the ocean floor in a series of yo-yo dives, often using the muscles of their thick heads to flip over rocks to find their prey. While the deepest known dive of a Hawaiian monk seal exceeds 1,500 feet, they generally make repeated dives to two and three hundred feet for hours at a time in search of food.

While each foraging dive lasts an average of six minutes, adults are able to hold their breath up to 20 minutes. In order to maximize their time underwater, Hawaiian monk seal biology allows them to slow their heart rate down to single digits per minute. A biological phenomenon called brachycardia.

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Photo credit: G. Langley

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Photo credit: G. Langley

Here’s growing PK3 and mom/RO28.

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Photo credit: G. Langley

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(P)update #31

Today, our dedicated volunteer observed PK2 and RK22 take one long swim and nurse on three ocassions.

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Photo credit: G. Langley

Unlike prior days, only one visitor interacted with PK2 today. A crab!

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Photo credit: G. Langley

The photos above and below provide a good look at the fore and hind flippers of a Hawaiian monk seal and provide another example of how true seals differ from members of the otariidae family. Whereas sea lions and fur seals are able to walk on all four flippers, monk seals do not. They “galumph” on shore. That is, they undulate like an oversized caterpillar. The two families of pinnipeds also differ in the way they swim through the water. Monk seals use their powerful hind flippers to push themselves through the water. Sea lions and fur seals use their large fore flippers to pull themselves through the water.

All pinnipeds have a small stub of a tail between their hind flippers, which don’t seem to serve much purpose but will come in handy after RK22 weans PK2 when biologists will examine her and measure her nose to tail!

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Photo credit: G. Langley

Down the coast, 11-day-old PK3 (born to RO28) logged a 35-minute swim.

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Photo credit: G. Langley

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(P)update #30

Right here. This photo explains why monk seals are known as true seals.

Photo credit: G. Langley

Taxonomically, the Hawaiian monk seal belongs to the order of pinniped, a member of the group of marine mammals that also includes sea lions, fur seals, and walruses. But here is where monk seals differ. Monk seals are part of the family Phocidae–true seals–members of which are characterized by their lack of external ear flaps. Monk seals’ ears are visible as small holes on the sides of their head; a narrow canal leads to the middle ear.

There are some other unique attributes that distinguish true seals from sea lions, fur seals, and walruses. We’ll get to those in future posts.

Photo credit: G. Langley

A little over three hours of swim time and three feedings were observed today for PK2 (born to RK22). No encounters with male visitors but 3CU, Temp 325 and R313 were in the area.

Photo credit: G. Langley

Photo credit: G. Langley

Our newest pup PK3 (born to RO28) is starting to spend more time in the water–sleeping as well as napping.

Photo credit: G. Langley

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(P)update #29

RK22 and PK2 had a couple swims today that totaled over four hours and were interrupted for three feedings and a variety of company. In one photo below, you can see a turtle, RN44, RV18, mom and pup. 3CU was also in the area.

Photo credit: G. Langley

Photo credit: G. Langley

Photo credit: G. Langley

By now, PK2’s teeth have started to erupt through her gums. Monk seals have two pair of eight teeth each for a total of 32, just like humans.

Photo credit: G. Langley

Here’s PK3. No confirmed gender yet. Still learning how the body works!

Photo credit: G. Langley

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(P)update #28

It’s a bit like Groundhog Day on the beach with RK22 and PK2: Swim, eat, sleep. Repeat.

Photo credit: G. Langley

 

Monk seals spend about two-thirds of their life in the water; hence, a little green algae will grow on their coat. If you see a “green” monk seal on the beach, chances are it’s close to its annual molt. In monk seals, it’s called a “catastrophic” molt, because it happens all at once over the course of a week or two.

Photo credit: G. Langley

Photo credit: G. Langley

Can you spot PK3 nursing on RO28 among the dark lava rocks?

Photo credit: G. Langley

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(P)update #27

Little is known about Hawaiian monk seal milk. Much is inferred from other seal species. Like the fact that milk composition changes throughout the course of lactation. Newborns need more water than fat. Whereas, older pups can derive water metabolically from fat stores, newborns can only obtain water by ingesting their mothers’  watery milk. There is also a relatively small amount of protein in the milk, but it’s thought to remain stable throughout lactation. Thus, as pups age, milk fats increase while water content decreases. This might also help explain why during the last week of nursing, it seems like pups pack on the pounds.

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Photo credit: G. Langley

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Photo credit: G. Langley

Note here the unidentified visitor on the left compared to RK22 in the middle. This gives a good perspective on the amount of weight RK22 has lost.

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Photo credit: G. Langley

Here you can still see the drastic size difference between RO28 and PK3.

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