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Archive for the ‘RF28’ Category

According to the Hawaii Tourism website, there’s a legend that connects Haupu on Kauai with Kaena Point on Oahu.  It goes like this:

“On the southeast side of Kauai is Haupu, a peak with many stories attached to it. There’s the giant guardian who shared the name Haupu with the peak on which he lived, whose responsibility was to watch for invaders coming in canoes from Oahu across Kaieiewaho Channel. He once saw the glow of torches on the horizon, saw many canoes and heard many voices. It was a fishing tournament off the western coast of Oahu organized by the chief Kaena, but Haupu mistook this for a fleet of invaders and flung rocks at them. The chief was one of the unlucky ones who lost his life, and his people named Kaena Point in his memory. Pohaku O Kauai, one of the stones the size of a house that Haupu threw across Kaieiewaho Channel, can still be found off Kaena Point.”

There’s another thing that connects Kauai and Oahu—Hawaiian monk seals. It’s not unusual phenomena for Kauai regulars to journey to Oahu, often popping up first at Kaena Point, the westernmost point on Oahu. It’s about an 80-mile journey, point to point.

Screen Shot 2020-06-01 at 9.53.31 PMMost recently, it was RK90 who made the crossing. She was last reported on Kauai at Poipu on May 26th. Then, on May 29th, according to Monk Seal Mania, she was spotted at Kaena Point.

RK90 is an adult female who was likely born on Niihau. Here’s what we know about her:

RK90 appeared on a Kauai Beach as a juvenile in 2013 with a fish hook in her mouth. It was removed, and she was flipper-tagged at the same time. In late 2017, RK90 was sighted on Kauai looking large and very pregnant. Then, she disappeared for six weeks, returning in mid-February looking thin. It’s suspected that she returned to her natal island to give birth, something many, but not all, females do. In May 2018, she turned up hooked again, requiring beach-side intervention. In 2019, RK90 was regularly reported during the first half of the year and, then, not reported on Kauai from July through November.

Thus far this year, RK90 has been reported to the Kauai Hawaiian Monk Seal Conservation Hui hotline on 25 different occasions. She typically ping-pongs between Kauai’s south shore and west side.

RK90’s journey across the Kaieiewaho Channel makes Oahu her third known island destination. She’s not the only seal to journey from Kauai to Oahu. This year alone, these one-time Kauai regulars, including a couple juveniles, have been sighted on Oahu. The year in parenthesis marks their first year reported on Oahu. Note, this year, five Kauai regulars have ventured across the channel.

RK90 (2020)
RF28 (2020)
RJ28 (2020)
R407 (2020)
R339 (2020)
R3CX (2019)
RG22 (2019)
RG28 (2019)
RH92 (2018)
R353 (2017)
R3CU (2016)
RW02 (2013)
RK36 (2013)
RE74 (2005)
RK28 (2004)
R5AY (2003)
RH58 (2002)

Over the years, these Kauai regulars have also been sighted on Oahu:

R8HY
R2AU
R4DE
R5EW
R6FA
RI37
RA20
R330
R313
RN30
R7AA
R376
R333
R1KT
R8HE
RO28

Kaena Point is a unique landscape on Oahu and important haul out location for Hawaiian monk seals, as well as, numerous native seabirds, including Laysan albatross. It’s a relatively remote and wild coastline. Kaena Point State Park is the gateway to Kaena Point Natural Area Reserve at Oahu’s most northwestern point.

In late April, Reps. Tulsi Gabbard and Ed Case proposed designating Kaena Point as Hawaii’s first National Heritage Area.

According to a joint press release distributed by Reps Gabbard and Case:

“In addition to its natural beauty, Kaʻena is a wahi pana (significant site), a rare cultural landscape with deep significance and meaning to many people,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. “We must work with the community to study the potential for a historic National Heritage Area designation that will help bring the federal resources and protection we need to mālama this special place for generations to come.”

“Kaʻena Point, largely state-owned, is the perfect candidate for Hawaiʻi’s first National Heritage Area given its truly unique cultural, historic and environmental heritage and qualities”, said Rep. Ed Case. “The State of Hawaiʻi’s Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) has already created a management plan for the Ka‘ena Point Stewardship Area to protect one of the last few remaining and easily accessible wilderness areas on O‘ahu.”

“However, DLNR does not have the resources to fully implement the plan” continued Rep. Case. “Creating a National Heritage Area could bring significant federal dollars – with a state or local match – to help augment this plan and develop cultural programs, protect historic sites and improve natural resource conservation. It would also build on already-existing public-private partnerships which is specifically what our National Heritage Areas aim to create and sustain.”

“We are thrilled at the prospect of adding Ka‘ena Point as a National Heritage Area,” said Suzanne Case, Chair of the Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources. “Ka‘ena Point receives hundreds of visitors weekly to both the state park and the Natural Area Reserve. Additional federal funding would allow us to enhance the visitor experience, expand community and cultural engagement and refine our natural resource management.”

Background: Reps. Gabbard and Case consulted with government and community groups in considering whether and which sites should be considered for National Heritage Area designation. H.R.6603 incorporates various comments, including a specific prohibition on federal acquisition of the land.

For years, Ka‘ena Point has suffered degradation and damage from erosion, invasive species and off-road vehicles and other damaging recreational use that destroyed vegetation, which made it unsuitable for nesting birds.

After the State established the region as a Natural Area Reserve in 1983, vehicular access to most of the area was blocked. The region can still be accessed via hiking trails, but those who come to the area must abide by strict conditions which has allowed nesting birds to return to the area.

Remote Kaʻena Point is the site of the last intact sand dune ecosystem in Hawaiʻi and is said to be named after a sibling of the Hawaiian goddess Pele. Kaʻena Point also includes a leina ka ‘uhane, an important recognized cultural site that, according to some Hawaiian traditions, is where the souls of the deceased leapt into the next plane of existence. Ka‘ena is also home to various protected species including laysan albatrosses, wedge-tailed shearwaters, monk seals and fragile native plants. Migrating whales can also be seen in the area during the winter months.

National Heritage Areas are locations throughout our country designated by Congress to recognize unique cultural and historic sites found nowhere else in the world. Though not part of the National Park System or otherwise federally owned or managed, the U.S. government through the National Park Service, funds and participates in partnerships with state and local governments and communities to foster coordinated conservation, recreation, education and preservation efforts. From designation of the first National Heritage Area in 1984, there are now 55 nationally, but none in Hawaiʻi.

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Sadly, on April 1, 2020, after a 10-week-long battle with toxoplasmosis, a deadly parasitic disease, the adult female seal RO28 passed away.

Also known as “Pōhaku,” RO28 was 14 years old, in the midst of her prime reproductive years, when she died. She was born on Kauai’s north shore in 2006 to RK06. (RK06 was tragically shot to death while she was carrying a full-term pup. The pup did not survive the shooting.)

Over the years, RO28 has made her fair share of appearances on these virtual pages. Throughout her life, she gave birth to seven pups, the first six of which she pupped and raised until weaning along the same stretch of coastline on Kauai’s north shore where she was born. (It’s not uncommon for females to pup near their own birth site.) However, RO28 spent her recent years on the island of Oahu, only returning to Kauai to give birth.

Here’s a recap of what we know about RO28’s life:

  • In her early adolescent years, RO28 spent much of her time hauling out on rocks along the Poipu coastline.
  • On Good Friday in 2010, she was successfully de-hooked.
  • She was first sighted on Oahu at Kaena Point during the 2010 Semi-Annual Hawaiian Monk Seal Count. She was re-sighted twice shortly thereafter, once with a fresh cookie cutter shark bite on her back.
  • In 2013, RO28 gave birth to RN30 who has traveled to Oahu and has been regularly sighted on Kauai’s north shore.
  • In 2014, RO28 gave birth to RF28 who has ventured to Niihau and is also commonly reported along the Poipu coastline.
  • In 2015, RO28 gave birth to RG28 who often hauls out on Kauai’s South Shore. This birth was miraculously captured on video by one of our volunteers.
  • In 2016, RO28 gave birth to RH80 who regularly circumnavigates Kauai.
  • In 2017, RO28 gave birth to RJ28 who can be found on beaches on Kauai’s north shore and east side.
  • In 2018, RO28 gave birth to RKA4 who was last sighted at Kipu Kai.

In 2018, RO28 and two other mothers pupped near each other, resulting in multiple pup-switching incidents. This occurs in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands where more females are pupping on fewer suitable habitat. RO28 was successfully reunited with RKA4; however, one of the other moms, RH58, also known as “Rocky” eventually showed aggressive behavior toward her pup, and he was rescued by NOAA and successfully raised and eventually released back to the wild.

RO28 pupped on Oahu last year and weaned her pup. Unfortunately, the pup tragically died some time thereafter. NOAA reported, “The circumstances surrounding her death indicate that she did not die of natural causes.”

The loss of RO28 makes thirteen known deaths due to toxoplasmosis.

The first documented monk seal death due to toxoplasmosis occurred in 2001. That number has now risen to at least 13 monk seals, making it a leading threat to the main Hawaiian Islands population. Because seals disappear and die without being discovered, the actual number of deaths caused by toxoplasmosis is likely much higher. Unfortunately, the data indicates more females die than males, presenting another challenge to recovery of the species. According to NOAA Fisheres, “Every lost female means that her future pups, and their future pups, are lost to the world.”

What’s unique about RO28’s case is she was only the third monk seal with toxoplasmosis to be rescued alive. While the other two passed away within 48 hours, veterinarians and care-givers were able to work with RO28 for 10 weeks. During that time, she showed improvement at times, providing science with invaluable information that will, hopefully, one day allow for successful medical care for toxo-infected monk seals.

The parasite Toxoplasma gondii is a microscopic, single-cell organism. Just one of their eggs—known as oocysts— is enough to kill a monk seal. A single cat can excrete 145 billion eggs per year in its feces, according to DLNR. It’s a staggering number.

According to this NOAA report, “The parasite that causes ‘toxo’ sexually reproduces in cats, which shed T. gondii eggs into the environment via their feces. The feces of just one cat contains millions of T. gondii eggs that survive in the environment for many months.

“Any warm-blooded animal, including humans, can contract toxoplasmosis by ingesting a single T. gondii egg — and cats are essential for the reproduction and spread of the parasite.”

The loss of RO28 is yet another reason to keep cats indoors to protect cats and Hawaii’s native wildlife. Please.

Screen Shot 2018-03-26 at 1.38.30 PMScreen Shot 2018-03-26 at 1.38.43 PM

 

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Field Report: November 2019

Monthly Update: The Kauai team logged 223 seal sightings this month. This included 31 individually identified seals.

November: 223
October: 258
September: 203
August: 324
July: 239
June: 179
May: 262
April: 348
March: 350
Feb: 303
Jan: 284

Updates:

  • PK6 was born at a remote beach along Napali Coast in September to R400. He was flipper-tagged on Nov 11. The male pup was large and healthy and now has a permanent ID of RL40.
  • RH38, the seal rehabbed at Ke Kai Ola and released in July, continues to thrive. Her tracking tag remains attached, however the battery has died so no further data is being transmitted.
  • All of the 6 pups born this year have been sighted recently and continue to thrive.
  • Displacements: Adult male RF28 was displaced from the keiki pool beach. That was his first displacement from the keiki pool.
  • Molting: Adult male RN02 spent 3 weeks at the busy Poipu Beach in pre-molt, molt, and post-molt which required extensive volunteer coverage. One other seal molted this month in less busy areas.
  • Vaccinations: Initial morbillivirus vaccine given to new juvenile seal R1NI.
  • Bleach marking: none this month.

Research/Support of Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center:

  • 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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RO28 and pup 2Twelve years ago, Kauai’s newest mom, RO28, was born in nearly the same spot she gave birth last week. While monk seals tend to have unique personalities and proclivities, it’s not uncommon for females to return to their natal beach sites when it’s their time to give birth. In fact, RO28 has pupped along the same stretch of coastline for six years in a row.

What’s more unique than that is the fact that RO28’s six pups are all still alive.

With all the threats facing Hawaiian monk seals–entanglements in marine debris, ingested fish hooks, intentional harm by humans, and the growing threat of toxoplasmosis–somehow all of RO28’s six pups have, thus far, evaded them all.

Point of note: RO28’s mother was RK06 who was shot by a fisherman in 2009. Even RO28 herself has run into some challenges. In 2010, she turned up with a fishhook in her mouth. Shortly after it was removed, she crossed the 100-mile open ocean channel to Oahu where she spends most of her time–until it’s time to give birth. Then, she makes the return journey to her natal site. Within a few days of arriving, she pups. The timing is impressive.

Here’s a recap of RO28’s pupping history:

  • In 2013, RO28 gave birth to RN30 who has recently traveled to Oahu
  • In 2014, RO28 gave birth to RF28 who now hangs out at Niihau
  • In 2015, RO28 gave birth to RG28 who often hauls out on Kauai’s South Shore. This birth was captured on video by one of our volunteers and can be seen here.
  • In 2016, RO28 gave birth to RH80 who regularly circumnavigates Kauai
  • In 2017, RO28 gave birth to RJ28 who can be found on beaches on Kauai’s North Shore and East Side

 

And, as always, if you’d like to volunteer with the Hawaiian Monk Seal Conservation Hui on Kauai, please email kauaiseals@gmail.com. And if you run across any seals on the beach, please take a quick health assessment and report any sightings to the hotline–808-651-7668.

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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.

img_5936

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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2015 Recap

2015 Total Numbers for Kauai Marine Mammal Response Network

We tallied the efforts of our 100+ member volunteer network over the past year and are excited to share the numbers with all of you. The gradual increase in seal sightings and numbers clearly show that monk seals are doing well in the Main Hawaiian Islands. We want to emphasize that it is the efforts of our volunteers that make this possible!

 Grand sightings total: 3,321 (9.1/day) monk seal sightings on Kauai in 2015 (up from 2,516 in 2014 or 6.9 seals/day)!

  •   Kauai population: 53 unique individual seals sighted in 2015 (47 in 2014)
  •   Births: 4 seal pups born on Kauai. Two pregnant females likely pupped on Ni’ihau (RK14 and RK28 departed pregnant, returned thin)
  •  Mortalities: RF22 – died from propeller strike
  •   Ni’ihau Seals: sighted 14 new seals in 2015 likely from Ni’ihau
  •   Kauai team flipper tagged 5 of these new unknown juveniles
  •   Bleach marking effort: 22 bleach marks were applied

Stranding: 6 monk seal responses.

  •  R6AP – dewormed and examined, SAT tag showed seal moved to Ni’ihau
  •  RN44 – circle hook removed from cheek at Larsens Beach. Full recovery.
  •  RF22 – found dead, cause of death was propeller strike.
  •  RF28 – ingested a circle hook. Transported to Oahu for surgical removal, released at Waipake after successful hook removal.
  •  RF28 – follow-up capture/exam due to flipper lameness. Minor laceration discovered, seal fully recovered from hooking.
  •  N1AA – J hook removed on the beach at PMRF. Full recovery.

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Field Report: Summer 2014

Banner pupping year on Kauai – 5 pups!

In addition to the previous pups reported (PK1, PK2 and PK3) two more pups were born on the north shore of Kauai. RH58, a well known and very successful mother gave birth to PK4 on June 28th. RK28, another proven mother gave birth to PK5 on July 16th.

Pups only spend around 40 days with their mothers, during which they gain massive amounts of weight from nursing. The typical pup is born at 35 pounds and gains between 100-150 pounds in a short 5-6 weeks! The mothers fast during this time and convert blubber into very rich milk (twice the calories of heavy whipping cream).

When the mother’s blubber is depleted they abruptly wean their pups by departing, usually at night, and do not return. The young pups are large, healthy and strong swimmers by this point and quickly learn to forage on their own. They are still very naïve, however, and can easily be taught to seek humans for food and company, so it’s crucial that we monitor these ‘weaners’ and make sure humans do not interfere with this critical developmental stage. Shortly after weaning, the pups are flipper tagged and given new permanent IDs, all of the pups born in 2014 were tagged as the ‘F’ cohort (i.e. RF22, the R identifies Main Hawaiian Island seals)

Meet the 2014 Kauai ‘F’ cohort:

RF22  Photo credit: Langley

RF22 male. Photo credit: Langley

RF28  Photo credit: Langley

RF28 male. Photo credit: Langley

RF30  Photo credit: Thomton

RF30 female. Photo credit: Thomton.

RF58  Photo credit: Langley

RF58 female. Photo credit: Langley.

PK5 Male.  Photo credit: Langley.

PK5 male. Photo credit: Langley

Off-Leash Dogs: Tragically, PK5 was killed by stray dogs when he was only two weeks old. The incident occurred during the night and was therefore not witnessed by our diligent pup-sitters. Tracks, blood, and injuries to four other seals, including PK5’s mom, indicated that the mother seals did their best to protect their pups. PK4 (now tagged RF58) had over 60 bite marks on her body and developed major abscesses around her neck. She immediately received medical attention and disease screening by a NOAA veterinary team, and fortunately healed quickly. Currently she is doing well and learning how to be an independent juvenile seal. Permanent neck scars will help us identify her, but pose no risk to her survival.

This was the first known monk seal death caused by a dog and a warning to all of us that we must keep our dogs on leashes (it is State law on all beaches) and strongly encourage everyone else to do the same.

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