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Archive for the ‘RH38’ Category

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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Last week, it was reported that RH38 had returned to rehabilitative care at Ke Kai Ola on Hawaii Island. You may recall, RH38 spent time in rehab in 2017. Then, it was determined her poor health was due to a heavy parasite load. She was relieved of that burden, fattened up, and released back on Kauai. Earlier this year, she started showing signs again of declining health. In March, she was flown to Ke Kai Ola, where she is now. Things are not so clear-cut this time around. She’s even made news as the first Hawaiian monk seal to receive a CT scan. Read this press release from The Marine Mammal Center for details. Too, you will find more about RH38’s life on Kauai here and here and here and here.

Endangered Hawaiian monk seal rescued from Kaua‘i in critical condition at The Marine Mammal Center’s hospital for monk seals on Hawai‘i Island

(Kailua-Kona, Hawai‘i – April 23, 2019) – A Hawaiian monk seal rescued on Kaua‘i is currently in stable but 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 have provided life-saving and supportive care, and continue to conduct extensive testing to find the cause of illness in the seal, a juvenile female known by researchers as RH38.

Initial tests by the Center’s veterinary team found that RH38 is suffering from weakness, infection, broad-scale inflammation and malnutrition. Veterinarians are still trying to pinpoint the cause of these symptoms.

“We’re incredibly concerned by RH38’s case as every individual is critical to this endangered population,” says Dr. Claire Simeone, The Marine Mammal Center’s Hospital Director at Ke Kai Ola. “We are committed to finding the cause of her illness and are using world-class expertise and medical techniques to keep RH38 alive and get her back to the wild.”

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. Veterinarians did not find any evidence of toxoplasmosis, leptospirosis, morbillivirus, or influenza, trauma, or poison, though they are not ruling anything out at this point.

Just recently, 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 are showing signs of damage. This is the first CT scan ever performed on a wild Hawaiian monk seal. Veterinarians hope that the results will help pinpoint any underlying causes of her illness.

The opportunity to treat RH38 and investigate her illness allows scientists to learn even more about this endangered species and potentially understand how to better treat patients in the future. Any information gained from this case adds to the collective understanding about this critical species.

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 appears to be unrelated to her original admit.

Experts have no indication that this is a threat to the larger population of seals, but the marine mammal response team will continue to monitor the population in Kaua‘i.

“No additional sick or malnourished monk seals have been detected across the main Hawaiian Islands,” says Dr. Michelle Barbieri, a veterinarian with NOAA’s Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program. “We do not currently have any reason to believe that what is affecting RH38 is contagious to the rest of the population.”

The Marine Mammal Center has over 44 years of experience in marine mammal health and medicine, and has discovered and diagnosed many novel conditions in marine mammals. The Center’s veterinary team is bringing decades of knowledge and expertise to RH38’s case, as well as consulting with a variety of wildlife health experts around the world.

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 outreach, education, response and animal care, our 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 majority of which were rescued from and returned to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. 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.

HOW THE PUBLIC CAN HELP

Members of the public should keep a safe distance from monk seals and report sightings on Hawai‘i Island to the Center’s response team at the 24-hour hotline: 808-987-0765. On Kaua‘i, report monk seal sightings to 808-651-7668 or call NOAA’s statewide toll free hotline at 1-888- 256-9840.

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Just two days shy of eight weeks after giving birth, RB00 finally weaned her pup, PK1.

RB00 nursed for a grand total of 54 days. That’s the longest stretch of nursing days for a Kauai pup going back to and including data on pups since 2012. The previous record was 51 days set in 2017 by RK30, a well-known (and well-storied) mom. Her pup was RJ36. The year prior, in 2016, RK30 nursed her pup (RH38) for a total of 50 days.

The average number of nursing days for Kauai moms since 2012 is 42 days. Last year, RK30 nursed for 49 days while both RK28 and RO28 nursed their pups for 39 days each.

The shortest number of nursing days occurred in 2012 when RK13 weaned RL10 after 32 days. During her pregnancy, RK13 experienced two injuries consistent with shark bites that left her in smaller condition than her usual pregnancy weight.

Here are some of the very last photos of PK1 with RB00 and also a few from his first day on his own. Watch for one photo in particular that illustrates clearly why some people theorize that the moniker “monk” for these seals harken to the kind of hood some religious monks wear as part of their habit.

As always, thanks to Gary Langley for so generously sharing his photographs.

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Field Report: February Report

Monthly Update: The Kauai team logged 303 seal sightings this month. This included 30 individually identified seals.

Feb: 303
Jan: 284
Dec: 153
Nov: 145
Oct: 203
Sep: 199

New:

  • Adult female RB00 pupped at a remote beach on the North Shore. This is her natal beach, however she had previously pupped on Maui and Lanai, not Kauai. The pup is male and thriving.
  • Subadult female RH38 is currently molting and very thin. This seal was rehabbed at KKO in 2017 due to a heavy parasite burden and emaciated body condition. Currently we are closely monitoring the seal as her molt continues in hopes that she will gain weight as soon as the molt is complete. However, plans to send her to KKO for rehab are being discussed.

Updates:

  • RK58 was reared at Ke Kai Ola from August 4, 2018 until released on Feb 13, 2019 after a 3 day soft-release. This required building a beach pen to hold him, and for staff and volunteers to camp on site to monitor the captive seal prior to release. The seal has shown no signs of interest in humans, and is interacting normally with other seals in the area.
  • Poipu Keiki Pool: Two displacements of subadult male seals R3CX and RG58. occurred this month. This is the third displacement for each from the Keiki Pool.
  • Bleach markings: none
  • Molting: 1 seal molted this month.

Research/Support of PIFSC:

  • 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.

 

Here are some images (thanks G. Langley) taken during the past week of PK1. He continues to grow, marks six weeks of life today, and may become a “weaner” in the next few days.

 

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

RH38 at Ke Kai Ola. Photo credit: L. Grote.

Last summer, when she was then one year old, RH38  started steadily losing weight. In August, she was transported by a US Coast Guard C-130 to Kona where she was examined by the team at Ke Kai Ola. RH38 was born to RK30 in 2016 and nursed for 50 days. She was the first Kauai seal to be treated at the Hawaiian monk seal hospital on Hawaii Island.

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RH38 in July 2017 before her visit to Ke Kai Ola. Photo credit: J. Thomton.

At Ke Kai Ola, it was discovered RH38 was heavily infested with tapeworms. Intestinal parasites are not uncommon in monk seals, and have been documented to inhibit growth and even cause death in young Hawaiian monk seals. After fattening up–from 88 lbs on entrance to 185 lbs at release–RH38 was flown back to Kauai last November. Shortly thereafter, she began the first of her annual molts.

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Since then, RH38 has behaved like a normal wild seal–and that’s good news especially whenever a seal is treated by humans. If a seal habituates to humans, they might start to interact with them in ways that are dangerous for the human as well as the seal.

At two-and-a-half years old, RH38 is regularly seen hauling out up and down the coastline along Kauai’s eastside. And as the buildup of green algae on the pictures below (taken today) indicate, she looks like she’s heading for her second annual molt in the coming months.

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RH38. Photo credit: L. Miyashiro.

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RH38. Photo credit: L. Miyashiro.

Earlier this summer, Kauai’s second seal headed to Ke Kai Ola for rehab. RK58, born to RH58, was not quite three weeks old when he was flown to Hawaii Island. (Read here to learn more about the unusual reason why he was sent to rehab.) RK58 is now learning how to catch live fish and will be returned to Kauai in the coming weeks. As with RH38, it’s absolutely vital that RK58 does not interact with humans upon his return, so he can live a long and wild seal life. We’ll share more about RK58 in the coming weeks.

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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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