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Archive for the ‘RH58’ Category

In the Hawaiian monk seal world, the term “logging” refers to a behavior performed by monk seals when they float on the surface of the ocean–not actively swimming–for extended periods of time. This time of year, it’s a behavior some very pregnant seals may exhibit in the days leading up to their delivery.

In the coming weeks, several females who regularly pup on Kauai may be seen logging in shallow water. Based on their pupping dates last year, these females anticipated due dates are as follows:

  • RK22 – June 22. (Although there’s no sign of her yet.)
  • RK30 – July 1.
  • RK28 – July 13
  • RO28 – July 16
  • RH58 – August 1

Logging by near-term pregnant females is natural behavior in monk seals. However, extended periods of logging can also be symptomatic of underlying health problems. When RK13 was healing from a suspected shark bite, she spent a fair amount of time logging in the shallow water of freshwater canals.

Logging can also be a symptom of toxoplasmosis, a disease that can be deadly to monk seals. Toxo is the number one disease threat to Hawaiian 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.”

Since 2001, eleven Hawaiian monk seals have died of toxoplasmosis. Logging is one behavioral symptom. Of the 11 confirmed deaths due to toxo, eight were female. At least, two were pregnant. Unfortunately, once the disease progresses to the point of visual symptoms like logging, it can be too late for veterinarians to help. It’s not an easy death, either. It’s suspected the near-shore logging behavior occurs, because it’s too painful for the seal to haul out on the sand. In the days leading up to RB24‘s death due to toxoplasmosis, she was reported logging in canals on Oahu.

It can seem like a weird thing–how can the feces of pet (and feral) cats kill Hawaiian monk seals? To help explain, NOAA created this infographic and fact sheet. More information about toxoplasmosis can be found here and here.

And if you see a logging seal–whether pregnant or not–please report it to the Hawaiian monk seal hotline at 808-651-7668.

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Every month, anywhere from 30 to 38 individual Hawaiian monk seals are reported to the Kauai Hawaiian Monk Seal Conservation Hui. But just who are these regulars? Here’s a look at the top ten most reported Hawaiian monk seal sightings on Kauai this year to date.

Keep in mind, many things affect this list. Monk seals often have favorite haul out locations. If a monk seal favors a location that happens to be easily accessible by humans, bingo, that seal will be reported more often to the hotline.

Then, of course, monk seal moms and their pups rack up a high number of reported sightings, because they stick to the same beach for weeks on end. As this list will also reveal, young monk seals–especially sub-adult males–are often sighted and reported, too.

  1. With 83 sightings, adult R7GM tops the list of most reported monk seal sightings on Kauai this year.  A female, it appears R7GM may be pregnant for the first time. If she pups on Kauai, her chances skyrocket for remaining at the top of this list for 2019.
  2. With 81 sightings, R3CX ranks second for the most reported monk seal sightings on Kauai. R3CX is a five-year-old male commonly seen roughhousing with other young males on Poipu Beach.
  3. With 65 sightings, RG58 ranks third for the most reported monk seal sightings on Kauai. RG58 is a four-year-old male who also prefers the busy beaches of Poipu. His mother is the renown RH58, also known as Rocky.
  4. With 56 sightings, RB00 ranks fourth for the most reported monk seal sightings on Kauai. The year’s first report of RB00 came two days before she gave birth. She nursed for 54 days and immediately left Kauai after weaning her pup. Recently, RB00 was sighted on Maui. RB00 also counts Rocky as her mother.
  5. With 53 sightings, RK52, yet another offspring of the prolific Rocky, ranks fifth on our list. She provided us with Kauai’s second pup of the year. She nursed for 36 days.
  6. With 53 sightings, RN44 ranks sixth for the most reported monk seal sightings on Kauai this year. He is a healthy six-year-old male, frequently sighted on his natal beach on the North Shore of the island. His mother is also Rocky.
  7. With 52 sightings, RL08 is the grandson of Rocky. He was born to RB00 earlier this year and nursed for a whopping 54 days.
  8. With 50 sightings, RK58 ranks eighth for the most reported monk seal sightings on Kauai this year. Another pup of Rocky’s, RK58 was abandoned by his mother in 2018 and spent several months in rehab at Ke Kai Ola before being released back on Kauai.
  9. With 41 sightings, RK30 ranks ninth for the most reported monk seal sightings on Kauai this year. RK30 is pushing 20 years of age. She’s also one of the most storied monk seals around, having survived many threats to her life. Read more about RK30 here.
  10. With 40 sightings, RG22 ranks tenth for the most reported monk seal sightings on Kauai this year. RG22 is another four-year-old male who loves to roughhouse with the boys at Poipu.

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No sooner than RB00 weaned her pup and RL08 was tagged than eight-year-old RK52 gave birth to a healthy pup on April 9th. After several days of observation, it’s been reported that PK2 is a boy. That makes two males for 2019.

RK52 is proving to be a solid mother, consistently chasing away other curious seals such as chunky RL08 and several other juvenile seals in the area. She was rather tolerant of them being within 10 feet of the pup for the first week, but her patience seems to be wearing thin over the past week, and she is now consistently shooing away others seals with aggressive posturing and vocalizations. The pup is a strong swimmer and is quickly gaining weight. Both mom and pup are doing well.

You may recall that RK52 gave birth to a stillborn pup last year. As far as we know, this is her second pup.

Both pups of 2019 are descendants of the legendary RH58, called by many as Rocky. RH58 herself appears pregnant again this year. As does another Kauai regular, RO28, so we can likely expect a couple more pups this summer.

Here are a few images of PK2’s first days of life.

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PC: Gary Langley

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Monk Seal Monday #48: New Pup!

When it comes to Hawaiian monk seal pups, the bigger, the better. A monk seal pup’s size is directly related to his mom. The bigger the mom when she pups, the longer her fat stores will hold out and the longer she’ll nurse before weaning her young one. A “weaner” with a hefty layer of blubber will have more time to figure out what to eat and where to find it. 

That said, Kauai’s first pup (PK1) of the year, a male, has a good chance of becoming a super size weaner.

When RB00 rolled out of the surf in early February and landed on a remote Kauai beach, she was approaching ocean-liner status. If she were a heavy duty truck, she would have been labeled as a wide load. RB00’s anticipated due date was January 20th, but she didn’t pup until Feb. 4, giving her a couple extra weeks to pack on the pounds. And pack on the pounds, she did.

Wide load RB00 hapai

Photo credit: G. Langley

RB00 pupped on a remote beach on Lanai in 2018. She nursed for a whopping six-and-a-half weeks. This year, RB00 surprised us by pupping on Kauai—on the very same beach on which she was born in 2007. RB00 possesses legendary DNA—her mother is RH58, also known as Rocky, who gained international fame when she gave birth on Waikiki Beach in 2017. For a detailed review of RB00’s life, read this post from last year.

PK1 marked his third week of life today, having survived the major windstorm and monster surf of two weeks ago. Here’s a recap in photos of his life thus far.

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Monk Seal Monday #47: RK58 Returns

The fishy smell of seal slammed against the nostrils to reveal the true contents of an ordinary dog kennel positioned in the back of a government truck. Only, there wasn’t any ordinary dog inside. Young RK58 was returning to Kaua‘i from six months of rehabilitation on Hawai‘i Island after a series of misadventures on his birth beach led his mother—RH58, the ordinarily perfect role model of a doting mother—to reject him.

Seal hierarchy is complicated.

RK58 slept peacefully, if smell-ily, on his flight from Hawai‘i Island to Kaua‘i and also during the hour-long drive through traffic to reach the beach where a temporary resting spot awaited him.

A circular “shore pen” was made of connecting fence panels. Inside, a tub for water was buried up to its sides in the sand. A log—about the same size as a six-month-old monk seal—was placed inside for RK58 to snuggle against when sleeping. Also, numerous drift wood sticks were scattered about to provide enrichment for the curious young monk seal. This setup would give RK58 time to transition from captive seal to wild seal.

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Photo credit: Gary Langley

When the dog kennel was opened, RK58 wasted no time in galumphing forward into his shore pen where he’d stay for a couple nights, as is protocol for young Hawaiian monk seals returning to the wild after an extended stay in rehabilitation at Ke Kai Ola, the Monk Seal Hospital, in Kona.

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Photo credit: Gary Langley

RK58 went immediately for the water tub. Over the next two days, he would energetically flop around in it until the tub would eventually crack and break. But the weather was perfect—cloudy with occasional rain—to keep a monk seal cool.

When he wasn’t in his tub, RK58 circumnavigated his shore pen, investigating his new environment. He tossed sticks in the air, kicked up sand with his fore-flippers, and napped alongside the log. In other words, he exhibited hallmark characteristics for a monk seal of his age.

At one point, a telemetry tag was adhered to RK58’s back. This will report back to NOAA his whereabouts. (Eventually, the tag will fall off.) Also, two red identification tags were attached to RK58’s rear flippers. The left reads RK58 and the right RK59. If these ever break and fall off, RK58 will still be identifiable by a microchip PIT tag (much like the kind inserted subcutaneously on dogs and cats) that was slipped under his skin. There’s actually a natural way to identify RK58. He sports a natural bleach mark on the tips of his right fore flipper—much like his mother does, too.

Monk seals are often further identified with a number bleached into their fur. However, no combination of dry seal and sleeping seal presented itself during RK58’s acclimatization period, so he has not yet been bleach-marked.

After two nights in his shore-pen, Dr. Claire Simeone, veterinarian and director of Ke Kai Ola, declared RK58 fit for re-release into the wild.

When RK58’s shore pen was opened, he wasted no time exiting, heading straight for the water.

But when he got washed in the shore break, he paused.

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Instead of diving in, RK58 motored down the beach for approximately 100 yards, bypassing an adult female monk seal who happened to be hauled out nearby. A small on-shore break washed his body in salt water a few times, but RK58 did not venture out. It was as if he were investigating his new world. And a big one, at that. Why rush it?

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But then, it all clicked. RK58 started swimming, even foraging, chasing after things under water, coming up with stuff in his mouth. He started duck diving under waves. He was a wild seal once again.

The next few weeks and months are critical for RK58. It may take him a few days to figure out what food he likes to eat, but Ke Kai Ola has prepared him. One condition of his release was that he free-feed—that is, catch his own live prey. He’s successfully noshed on live fish. He’s even used his strong jaws to crack open lobster. The bigger concern for any rehabbed wildlife is that they maintain a healthy wariness of people. The fewer interactions he has with humans, the better. Let’s do what we can to ensure RK58’s survival. Let’s keep him a wild seal.

Here are more reports about RK58 and his return to the wild.

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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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Monthly Update:
The Kauai team reported 33 individually identified seals in August for a grand total of 295 seal sightings this month. This equates to 9.5 seals sighted and reported each day.

August: 295
July: 414
June: 315
May: 332
April: 302
March: 299

New

  • A pup switch occurred for the first time on 7/20/18. RH58’s pup PK5 was forcefully taken by another mother RO28 who left her female pup PK4 alone on the beach. The Kauai team successfully reunited the correct moms with pups later that day. Another pup switch occurred on 8/2/18 when RH58’s pup PK5 was seen with another mother RK28 who had left her male pup PK3. Again, RH58 was alone but searching and calling for her pup. The Kauai team attempted to reunite the correct mothers to pups on 8/3/18. RK28 quickly took her pup PK3 back, however, RH58 rejected her pup and became aggressive toward him. The pup was left on the beach overnight in hopes that RH58 would reunite naturally. On 8/4/18, RH58’s pup PK5 was again found with RO28 at sunrise. RO28’s pup PK4 was nearby and began calling for her mother, who quickly left PK5 and rejoined PK4 without human interference. A final attempt at re-uniting PK5 with his mother RH58 occurred that morning of 8/4/18, however she continued to be aggressive toward the pup. The Kauai team captured PK5 (now permanent ID of RK58) mid-day on 8/4/18 and transported him to Lihue for USCG C130 transport to Ke Kai Ola for rehab.
  • Three seal pups weaned and were flipper tagged in August.
  • New adult male seal R8HD hauled out on Kauai after being flipper tagged on Molokai earlier this year. It was suspected this seal had been previously tagged, so the Kauai team was asked to scan the seal for a PIT tag, without disturbing the seal. A full scan was performed, no PIT tag was detected.

Updates:

  • The first pup of the year, now weanling RK42, was de-hooked by the Kauai team on 7/28/18. A large j-hook with 5’ of 100 lb test monofilament leader with swivel attached was removed from the right side of the seals mouth. The pup has not been resighted since de-hooking.
  • Bleach markings: No bleaches were applied.
  • Morbillivirus vaccinations: The North Shore pups RKA4 and RKA6 were fully vaccinated against morbillivirus.

Research/Support of PIFSC

  • Sub-sampled scat, molt, and tissue plug samples accordingly.

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