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Archive for the ‘RH38’ Category

In November, the Kauai team logged 239 seal sightings. This included 35 individually identified seals. Here’s a look at how the 239 number compares to other months.

November: 239
October: 225
September: 354
August: 236
July: 335

As a reminder, there are numerous reasons that can effect the number of reported seal sightings. Two big ones are the availability of our steadfast volunteers taking their daily beach walks, and the presence of moms with pups and the subsequent “pup sitting” we do. Of course, the seals themselves play a factor in this, too. Maybe there’s some seasonality in foraging that takes them to remote areas of the island where we don’t see them. That’s the thing with animals that spend the majority of their lives at sea–we don’t quite know.

Other November news to note:

  • Seal activity continues around Poipu Beach Park with seals swimming among swimmers, snorkelers and the water aerobics class and hauling out on the beach amidst beach-goers. Our advice continues to be for everyone involved to give the animal its space and never approach, touch, harass, disturb it. Remember: Monk seals are wild animals; let’s keep them that way.
  • One additional monk seal received its morbillivirus vaccination in November. This virus, similar to distemper in dogs, has not infected the monk seal species. But in a proactive effort to combat an outbreak, the Hawaiian Monk Seal Science Program started vaccinating seals last year. To learn more about the threat of morbillivirus, read this Smithsonian article.
  • Two seals “bleach-marked” this month–RG22 as V22 and R340 as V77. To learn more about using Clairol to help identify individuals seals, read this previous #MonkSealMonday report.
  • Four seals completed their molts in November, including: RH38, RG58, RK14, RH80. To learn more about molting in Hawaiian monk seals, read this previous #MonkSealMonday report.
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PC: B. Downs.

As a follow up to last week’s post on molting, it appears that RH38 has completed her molt. She’s lost the green and is back to sporting a sleek silvery coat. She’s also starting to navigate along the North Shore. This is good news, because RH38 spent several weeks in late summer at Ke Kai Ola being treated for a high load of intestinal parasites right as she was entering her pre-molt phase. RH38’s moved some 15 miles along the coast from where she was released back into the wild. It’s good too see RH38 moving about again like a healthy wild seal.

Now, it’s important RH38 remain a normal wild seal. That is, that she doesn’t habituate to humans and human things like boats and harbors and surfboards. During RH38’s time in rehab, her caregivers at Ke Kai Ola were careful to prevent this, but the fact remains that she spent several weeks around humans. Hopefully, RH38 does not look favorably upon that experience and will go out of her way to avoid humans.

This is where you can help. If you see RH38 interacting with people on the beach, in the water, around boats, near harbors, please let us know at 808-651-7668.

 

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PC: B. Downs.

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PC: B. Downs.

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PC: B. Downs.

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PC: B. Downs.

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Monk Seal Monday #5

It’s the Monday after Thanksgiving, and there’s probably a few of us who could shed a few pounds after feasting all weekend, so let’s talk about molting.

Healthy Hawaiian monk seals molt once a year. That is, they shed the top layer of their skin–and their fur along with it. It’s called a “catastrophic” molt, because it happens over a shortened period of time of about 10 days to two weeks. Unlike a snake, say, the process doesn’t happen all in one piece but in bits and pieces. A monk seal can look pretty raggedy during this time. The molting process taxes the monk seal’s energetic resources, so you’ll often find a molting animal tucked under bushes and resting on the beach. That’s all the more reason to not disturb them and why the HMSRP rarely uses them as study subjects–say for telemetry and/or video camera purposes.

We’ve got a couple Hawaiian monk seals going through their annual catastrophic molts right now and a few more ready to start any time, including RH80, RH38, and, possibly, RK14.

The clue to knowing when a monk seal is about to molt is when they start looking very green. Monk seals tend to spend two-thirds of their life in the water. During that time, algae can grow on their fur, typically in areas where a monk seal’s fur doesn’t always dry out–under the fore flipper and around their rear flippers.

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Photo credit: Lynn Nowatzki

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RH38 is back and looking fit!

After 84 days in rehab at Ke Kai Ola (also known as the “Monk Seal Hospital”) on Hawai‘i Island, the yearling monk seal gained nearly 100 pounds. That’s more than a pound a day.

Here’s a video of RH38 exiting her carrier upon her return to Kaua‘i.

And here she is entering the ocean.

When we think of threats to Hawaiian monk seals, we often think of entanglements with marine debris. We think of monk seals ingesting fishhooks. These are the more obvious threats. That is, the ones we can easily see. But there are other threats that require the aid of microscopes to see, and that’s exactly what RH38 was fighting.

Gastrointestinal parasites (tapeworms) are not uncommon in monk seals; however, RH38 was carrying such a heavy load, it had a negative effect on her health.

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This photo of RH38 was taken in July. (PC: J. Thomton)

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This photo of RH38 was taken in July. (PC: J. Thomton)

RH38 was born to RK30 in the spring of 2016 at a remote beach along Napali Coast. At weaning, she was reported to be one of the largest pups of the 2016 season across the state. However, in the ensuing months, as you can see from the photos above, she lost quite a bit of weight. At her release from Ke Kai Ola last week, she topped out at a healthy 185 pounds. What’s more, she’d been de-wormed. She’s now in the perfect condition to go through her first annual molt, which, by the looks of all the green algae growing on her, is likely to happen soon.

When monk seals molt, they do so all at one time, over the course of 10 days to two weeks, spending much of that time conserving energy on the beach.

Since RH38’s about to experience her first molt, she was not outfitted with a telemetry tag that would tell us her whereabouts, because it would simply fall off as soon as the patch of hair and skin holding it in place does.

Ke Kai Ola was recently recognized by NOAA with a “Species in the Spotlight Hero Award” during the “Year of the Monk Seal” for their conservation efforts in helping recover the endangered Hawaiian monk seal. Since the hospital opened three years ago, Ke Kai Ola has rehabilitated and released 20 monk seals back into the wild. We are very grateful for their assistance in helping RH38 return to tip-top shape.

As well, we couldn’t move ailing monk seals quickly from Kaua‘i to Hawai‘i Island without the help of the U.S. Coast Guard who, once again, provided a lift for RH38. That’s two airplane flights for this one-and-a-half-year-old monk seal.

 

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Update: RH38

 

HMS_RH38_photo (7) by Laura Grote © The Marine Mammal Center_NOAA permit #18786 (1)

Photo by Laura Grote © The Marine Mammal Center, NOAA permit #18786

In our recent “Field Report, we shared that RH38, a yearling female, had been observed steadily losing weight over the summer. On August 11, she was transported by a US Coast Guard C-130 to Kona, where she is being rehabilitated at Ke Kai Ola, the Hawaiian monk seal hospital.

As you may recall, RH38 was born to RK30 last year, our first birth of 2016.

When RH38 was admitted to Ke Kai Ola, she weighed 88 pounds, about half her size at weaning a year prior. It’s not unusual for monk seal weaners to lose weight as they learn how to forage on their own, but, clearly, RH38’s weight had dropped more so than other yearlings her age. An exam performed at Ke Kai Ola revealed RH38 was carrying a heavy infestation of tapeworms. Intestinal parasites are not uncommon in monk seals, but have been documented to inhibit growth and even cause death in young Hawaiian monk seals. After treatment, RH38 is now eating well and gaining weight a good clip. She’s expected to be released from Ke Kai Ola’s care in the next couple months.

“This is why we built Ke Kai Ola,” said Dr. Shawn Johnson, Director of Veterinary Science at the Marine Mammal Center, on the Center’s website. “If we want to save this species, every monk seal female counts, so we’re proud to be able to provide long-term rehabilitative care to monk seals like RH38 and ensure they are able to survive and thrive in their ocean home.”

HMS_RH38_photo (8) by Laura Grote © The Marine Mammal Center_NOAA permit #18786

Photo by Laura Grote © The Marine Mammal Center, NOAA permit #18786

Because RH38 will be released back into the Main Hawaiian Island population, where there’s a good chance she may encounter humans, the staff at Ke Kai Ola is taking great precaution in treating RH38 so that she does not associate humans with food. We want all our monk seals to continue to be the wild animals they are.

Click here to read more about the great work that Ke Kai Ola is doing with Hawaiian monk seals and other pinnipeds.

We’ll continue to report on RH38’s progress, so check back periodically.

 

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Field Report: September

V93 is now R7AA!

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PC: B. Becker

A yearling female that showed up on our north shores in late June, made her way south in August. She hauled up several times at Lawai Beach where the NOAA Science Center scientists and veterinarian were able to capture and examine her healing abscess and, with the Kauai team, flipper tag her (7AA/7AB).

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PC: B. Becker

She was given a long acting antibiotic, and fitted with a cell phone transmitter, so we can monitor her movements, foraging and follow her health.

Seals of Concern Updates

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PC: M. Olry

RH38: A female yearling seal that was underweight, was transported August 11 by US Coast Guard C-130 to Kona, where she is being rehabilitated at Ke Kai Ola, the Hawaiian monk seal hospital. Her admission weight was 40 kg and she was treated for tapeworms, which were causing her to do poorly. She is eating well, and now is at 46 kg. She has two companions from the NWHI, one admitted in June and the other in August. The plan is to complete her treatment for tapeworms and to allow her to gain enough weight to insure her success after release in another month or two.

Hooked Seals
hooked-seal-image000001-2.jpgThe adult male seal that was hooked in his back threw off the hook, and continues to be seen at Poipu, he is now freshly molted and known as Temp331.

An unknown seal was reported by a fisherman on the rocks at Kaumakani point last week. The hook is in the right corner of the mouth and is non-life threatening. We do not know of the identification of this seal, whether it has tags or its sex. It may be a young adult or subadult, possibly a Ni’ihau seal, so keep a lookout!

Seal Research

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PC: B. Becker

The NOAA Pacific Islands Science Center research biologists were on Kauai for a week working with the Kauai team to find a subadult or adult male seal to deploy a new streamlined “critter” camera. Searching all coasts, practically all of Kauai’s seals were sighted! Many of the mature males were either starting or finishing their molts, so they were not candidates.

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PC: B. Becker

Finally R1KT (molts in Dec.) was found on a quiet sandy beach. The team was able to capture him and place a camera (in front) and cell phone transmitter to help relocate him to remove the camera three days later to retrieve the footage. The instruments not only gave a visual video record of movements, but also location, depth of dives, time periods and speed! We look forward to learning what R1KT has to teach us!

We thank the many volunteers that searched with us and responded to mul- tiple seal haul outs to find a good candi- date. We also found a new large adult male, fairly clean, without scars, not known to our records. With additional experienced seal handlers, we were able to capture this seal and tag him. He is now called R2XS with tags (2XS/2XR).

Famous Waikiki Pup Translocated
RH58’s weaned pup, is now known by her tags at RJ58 and still remembered as Kaimana, the Ha- waiian name for her natal beach. Because of vari- ous risk assessments and considerations, she was translocated to a north shore beach to put her in a safe location, where she could interact with other seals and safely forage and explore without the human crowds and dangers at Waikiki.

Also the whole story written by a NOAA biologist can be found here.

Additional Marine Animal News
The State Board of Land and Natural Resources Approves New Boating Rules that will prohibit feeding of wildlife or feral animals, and abandoning animals, and creating or contributing to colonies at any property under the boating division’s jurisdiction. These new sections were added in response to complaints about increased feeding of feral animals at boating facilities, which creates potentially unsafe and unsanitary conditions and endangers sea life.

The board approved both amended rules but deferred implementation of a provision that would allow disposal of feral or abandoned animals at state small-boat harbors until Jan. 1, 2019. The delay was to give time for the boating division to work with animal caregivers to come up with a viable plan to relocate colonies of feral and abandoned animals to areas outside of the small-boat harbors.

NOTE: Cats are the only reproductive host of the parasite toxoplasmosis, which has killed monk seals, and continues to threaten human and other marine mammal health. Click here.

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Field Report: Summer

2017 pups are all weaned and tagged!

Monk Seal Pup RJ22-2All weaned pups this year are males (all three last year were females, born to the same moms at same locations!). RK30’s pup born along the Na Pali coast, is a nice big healthy weaner, now known as RJ36 (tagged J36/J37). We are grateful to Captain Tara Leota and Kauai Sea Riders for assistance to monitor and deliver the Kauai team to tag this pup.

RK22 weaned her pup RJ22 (tagged J22/J23) on the northeast coast and was found one morning entangled in in monofilament fishing line. Fortunately, while we were monitoring,  he was able to free himself from the fishing line. This demonstrates why it is so important to check the seals regularly–and to pick up marine debris whenever possible.

The last pup to wean, was RO28’s pup now known as RJ28 (tagged J28/J29). This pup remains on his natal beach while RJ22 has already started exploring more of the coast, moving south.

Seals of Concern Updates

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Photo credit: Miyashiro.

RH92, juvenile female was translocated from Kapaa to PMRF in March. We are pleased to report that even though she returned to the Fuji Beach area she is no longer logging nor feeding on fish scraps in the canal. She continues to forage normally along the east coast and just finished her first molt.

Another yearling female, RH38, is getting ready to molt along the north shore, and we are monitoring her closely as her weight is low.

Unusual hook discovery

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Photo credit: Thomton 

An unknown, untagged, clean adult male seal showed up on the south shore with a large J-hook stuck in his back. A second J-hook was attached with a metal leader and there was 17 feet of very heavy (400 lb) monofilament trailing. Coordinators were able to cut away all of monofilament and the dangling second hook.

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Photo credit: Thomton

The remaining hook embedded in the skin is non-life threatening and will eventually come out on its own, however we will closely monitor this seal and intervene if necessary. Fishermen have informed us that the gear that hooked the seal is used to catch marlin by trolling behind a fast moving boat.

Meanwhile, in Waikiki

One of Kauai’s longtime breeding females, RH58 or “Rocky,” pupped on at Kaimana Beach in Waikiki on Oahu–and instantly became the darling of beachgoers. The mom and pup, a female, provided NOAA staff and volunteers with additional concern when they swam inside the Natatorium by way of an opening in its crumbling seawall. Eventually, once RH58 weaned her fat and healthy pup, the pup was relocated to a more remote location for her safety. As we’ve discussed here many times, young seals are most vulnerable right after weaning. This is a time they spend exploring their natal beach, learning what’s edible and what isn’t. At this age, they are quite curious and social, approaching other seals and, even, people on the beach and in the water as they go about figuring out how to survive as a seal on their own. For her safety, scientists decided to move RH58’s pup to a more remote location.

And at Midway Atoll

A mother monk seal bit a woman–an employee with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service–several times while the woman was swimming in the only section of water open for recreational use. The monk seal approached the woman from an adjacent beach where she had pupped. The woman remained on Midway to recover from her injuries. While this incident is extremely unfortunate, it is a good reminder that monk seals are wild animals and that each seal is an individual, each reacting differently to what might seem to be similar situations.

 

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