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Archive for the ‘RH58’ Category

Field Report: May 2021

Monthly Update: The Kauai team logged 209 seal sightings this month. This included 28 individually identified seals.

  • May: 209
  • April: 155
  • March: 137
  • February: 119
  • January: 125
  • December: 119
  • November: 133
  • October: 152
  • September: 152
  • August: 198
  • July: 120
  • June: 81
  • May: 147

New:

  • Flipper tagged RH58’s (Rocky) pup from 2020 as RM58, and gave morbillivirus vaccine.
  • Return of visitors causing increased disturbance to seals across the island. More signs put at racks at Poipu beach park to manage SRA without ropes and volunteers deployed.

Updates:

  • RB00 and new pup KP1 continue to thrive. 
  • 3-year-old male R1NI washed ashore dead on the south shore. Carcass was fresh code 2, collected and frozen on Kauai, then shipped to Oahu for necropsy. Gross necropsy did not reveal much, awaiting histopathology lab results.
  • Subadult male seal RK58 was returned from KKO after 6 weeks of rehab and released on March 26. He was treated at KKO for likely dog attack injuries that resulted in significant weight loss and infected puncture wounds.

Morbillivirus Vaccination: RM58 received the initial vaccine 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.

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Photo credit: Ke Kai Ola

For the past two years, a very large seal with the flipper tags B00 has made her way across the archipelago to give birth where she herself was born to the well-known RH58, a.k.a. Rocky, in 2007. This is RB00. She was sighted as recently as last week on Hawaii Island. Her predicted due date is two days away–Wednesday, March 31, 2021.

Last year, RB00 gave birth on Kauai’s north shore to a monk seal still known as PK1 and who is also bleach-marked V00. No flipper-tags have yet been applied to PK1 due to COVID restrictions; however, she should be tagged soon. She is predictably found at her north shore birth beach and has a preference for hauling out very high on the beach tucked into vegetation, often completely hidden from view.

The year before, in 2019, RB00 gave birth to RL08. Because RB00 tends to pack on the pounds during her pregnancy, she can often nurse for a few days or even weeks longer than other female monk seals. RL08 continues to thrive and is much larger than most two-year-olds, thanks to the head-start his mom gave him from two extra weeks of nursing (54 days total) when he was a pup. RL08 is most commonly seen on the north and east shores of Kauai and was sighted 47 different times in 2020.

In 2018, RB00 gave birth on Lanai. In 2016, she delivered a stillborn pup on Maui. So there’s really no telling where she’ll decide to pup this year–Hawaii Island, Maui, Lanai, Molokai, Oahu, Kauai. With this long-distance swimmer, all are possibilities.

To read more about RB00, click here.

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Here are some year-end stats. Like everything for 2020, remember that these numbers are greatly influenced due to COVID-19, which paused the Kauai Hawaiian Monk Seal Conservation Hui’s volunteer program.

Grand sightings total: 

  • 2,005 or 5.5/day monk seal sightings on Kauai in 2020.
  • 3,154 or 8.9/day in 2019.
  • 3,253 or 8.9/day in 2018.
  • 3,621 or 9.9/day in 2017.
  • 3,236 or 8.9/day in 2016.
  • 3,321 or 9.1/day in 2015.
  • 2,516 or 6.9/day in 2014.

Kauai population: 

  • 67 unique individual seals sighted on Kauai in 2020.
  • 67 in 2019.
  • 60 in 2018.
  • 60 in 2017.
  • 56 in 2016.
  • 53 in 2015.
  • 47 in 2014.

Births: 3 total born on Kauai in 2020.

  • V00 (bleach-marked) born to RB00 in March.
  • V02 (bleach-marked) born RH58 to in August.
  • RM28 (flipper-tagged) born to RK28 in August.

Mortalities: 6 confirmed mortalities in 2020.

  • R313 and fetus: adult female with near full term fetus, necropsy pending.
  • RJ36: 3-year-old male, hook ingestion, necropsy pending.
  • RKA6: 2-year old female, mummified condition, cause of death unknown.
  • RL52: 1-year-old male, necropsy pending, case under investigation.
  • Weaned female pup, ID unknown, necropsy pending, case under investigation.
  • Subadult seal, sex and ID unknown, mummified condition, cause of death unknown, case under investigation.

Niihau Seals (likely): sighted a minimum of 8 new seals in 2020, but likely more as several new untagged seals had no markings or scars so no temporary IDs were given.

  • 8 in 2020.
  • 5 in 2019.
  • 9 in 2018.
  • 12 in 2017.
  • 6 in 2016.
  • 14 in 2015.

Displacements: 4 total displacements occurred.

  • 3 displacements from unsafe or unsuitable locations (boat ramps, beach roads, sidewalks, etc).
  • 1 displacements from the Poipu keiki pool. 

Vaccination for morbillivirus efforts: 

Due to COVID-19, fieldwork was minimal and no seals were vaccinated. Plans are in place to resume vaccinations in 2021.

Bleach marking effort: 

6 bleach marks were applied.

Stranding Responses in 2020: 

One monk seal stranding response and 6 carcass retrievals:

  • RK13 – gillnet wrapped around muzzle was removed with a pole mounted cutting tool. 

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Field Report: September

Monthly Update: The Kauai team logged 152 seal sightings this month. This included 22 individually identified seals.

  • September: 152
  • August: 198
  • July: 120
  • June: 81
  • May: 147
  • April: 117
  • March: 200
  • February: 264
  • January: 319
  • December: 180
  • November: 223
  • October: 258
  • September: 203

New:

·       One-year old male monk seal, RL52, was found dead on the east shore of Kauai.

·       An adult seal was harassed and chased into the water by three off-leash dogs at Kealia Beach. The seal left the beach uninjured. DOCARE is investigating.      

·       Adult male R332, a Niihau seal, was sighted by the PMRF crew on Kauai for the first time ever.

Updates:

·       RH58 (Rocky) weaned her female pup, PK2, on Sept 15 after 39 days of nursing. The pup is fat, healthy and thriving. Since we are unable to flipper tag pups at this time, due to COVID-19, a bleach mark of V02 was applied to her fur.

·       RK28 (KC) weaned her female pup, PK3 on Sept 18 after 40 days of nursing. A bleach mark of V03 was applied to her fur. The mom and pup spent much of this time near large groups of campers and fishers within 100 feet of the pair, fishing sometimes as close as 10 feet to the seals. Signage was clearly posted around the seals; however, no direct outreach was conducted due to COVID. The seals appeared unbothered by the activity and there were no reports of human/seal interactions, aggression, or disturbance.

·       Due to COVID-19 stay-at-home measures, our new methods of monitoring continue:

o   Weekly surveys of key beaches by staff;

o   DAR staff conducting weekly island wide Creel Surveys;

o   PMRF staff continuing to send in routine reports and photos; and

o   Requesting that people who call the hotline to report seals assist us by sending several photos and setting-up SRA signs or sticks. 

·       The weaned pup, PK1, is ranging more widely. A report was made of young boys throwing small rocks at her. Lately, she is much more aware and wary of humans on the beach.

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.

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Monk Seal Monday #109: Weaner Update

In the good news department, all three of Kauai’s monk seal pups born this year are female. The more females in the population, the greater the potential for a boost in population numbers–super important with endangered species. Additionally, all three are no longer “pups” but “weaners,” as NOAA refers to Hawaiian monk seal pups after their mothers wean them.

The year’s first-born was PK1, born to RB00. PK1 nursed for 45 days. PK2, born to RH58, nursed for 39 days. And PK3, born to RK28, nursed for 40 days.

Due to COVID-19, none of the weaners have been flipper tagged. That also means none have been measured for girth and length. However, here’s an anecdotal assessment of their size: PK2 is fat. PK3 is fatter. PK1 is still the fattest, and she has actually slimmed down some since she was weaned in April.

Instead of flipper-tagging, the use of “bleach tags” will be used to identify the weaners. PK1 has been bleached V00. PK2 has been bleached V02. In the coming days, it’s hoped to bleach PK3 as V03.

As the oldest, V00 has already started moving around quite a bit these days–between the north and east sides of the island. V02 and V03 are still sticking close to their natal beaches; however, V03 has just started to explore a bit more in the past week. During this time, all three are learning how to feed themselves.

It’s not unusual for recently-weaned seals to approach other seals in the hopes of finding one with the milk-producing gifts that their mothers once provided them. Typically, this results in a scuffle between weaner and the second seal, sand and water flying. However, last week, when PK3 approached PK2, no scuffle ensued. No milk ensued, either. But, for about 30 minutes, PK2 showed extreme patience in allowing PK3 to nudge, push, and nip her in the hopes of a little nourishing milk. Here are some photos from that interaction.

PC: J. Thomton
PC: J. Thomton
PC: J. Thomton
PC: J. Thomton

The past several years, R400 birthed late in the summer along Na Pali coast; however, there have been no reports of her this year. Surprisingly she was sighted on Oahu for the first time ever this past July, and she did not look pregnant. So, maybe she’s taking a year off.

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Monk Seal Monday #106: (P)updates!

This past weekend, Kauai’s newest pups made two weeks of age. Both are progressing as expected–nursing and gaining weight, losing their fetal folds, taking longer swims, and exploring deeper water.

Interestingly, last year, these same two moms pupped on the same beach within a day of each other. This year, two days separated their delivery dates, again on the same beach. RH58 gave birth to PK2 on August 7th and RK28 gave birth to PK3 on August 9th.

(Note: pups are referred to as “PK” for “Pup Kauai” followed by their birth order for the year. Once pups are weaned, they are flipper-tagged and given their science name, which is really a number. For more on flipper-tagging, click here.)

In 2018, these same two moms also pupped on the same beach. Only this time, they were involved in an unusual series of “pup switches” that resulted in one pup being rejected and rehabilitated at Ke Kai Ola, the monk seal hospital on Hawaii Island. (For more information on that event, click here and here.)

This year, moms and pups are, thus far, keeping their distance from each other.

Here are a series of photos taken last week on Wednesday, August 19th. Can you identify them? Who is RH58? PK2? Who is RK28? PK3? (Hint: You can click on RH58 and RK28 in the sidebar on the right to examine previous photos of these two seals. Look for identifying markers–scars, natural bleach marks, etc.) Answers below.

Top row: RH58 and PK2 left. RK28 and PK3 right.

Middle row: RK28 and PK3 left. RH58 and PK2 right.

Bottom row: RH58 and PK2 left. RK28 and PK3 right.

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Let’s continue last week’s post about male hierarchical displays and posturing among Hawaiian monk seals. Because they’re at it again. But this time, they’re vying for the attention of a female. Not just any female. A pregnant one. A very pregnant one.

Last Thursday, when a very pregnant RH58 (yes, that RH58, also known as Rocky the Celebrity Seal) showed up after making the oceanic crossing from Oahu, another seal, seven-year-old RN30 appeared, too. (RN30 was born to in 2013 to first-time mom RO28, who died of toxoplasmosis earlier this year.) RN30 approached RH58, getting close enough for her to display in a manner that indicated she wanted him to back off. That is, she lifted her head, opened her mouth, and vocalized at him.

By the next morning, another male had arrived. This one, R3CD. He was estimated to be six when he was tagged in 2017. RN30 positioned himself between the RH58 and R3CD. The dynamics got really interesting when RH58 hauled her heavy body into the water for a gravity-free swim. The boys followed, of course, and RN30 worked hard to keep his position in between the two. While RH58 floated about languidly in the shallows, RN30 darted over to R3CD. They’d splash a bit. Then, he’d zip back to check on RH58. Rinse. Repeat.

But the antics were just getting started. Things got more interesting when another pregnant female showed up–RK28. Her appearance kept the boys busy while at the other end of the beach, RH58 quietly gave birth to PK2.

By day’s end on Friday, RN30 was still annoying RK28 while R3CD quietly watched over PK2 and RH58.

Sunday morning broke to reveal RK28 had given birth to PK3.

Now, the boys are still hanging around but not quite as attentive. Typically, once a pup arrives, the males’ interest wanes, leaving moms to snuggle (bond) and feed (nurse) their young.

And with that bit of background, meet PK2.

20200807 PK2-620200807 PK2-520200807 PK2-4

And PK3.

k28 + pk3 - 2k28 + pk3 - 1

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Some monk seals like to roam far and wide, as we recently wrote about a few of those seals that have made the journey across the 80-mile, point-to-point Kaʻieʻie Waho Channel from Kauai to Kaena Point on Oahu.

Then, there are another group of seals. Those that stick close to home and can be counted on to appear in a handful of locations. The young RL58 is fast-becoming one of the most predictable to haul out in the same general location day after day–nearly 70 times year-to-date–very near her natal beach.

RL58 was the fifth-born pup of 2019. She was born to the famed RH58, also known as Rocky, and nursed for 45 days. She wasn’t the largest of weaners we’ve seen, measuring 118 cm long and 96 cm around (girth) at weaning; however, she’s survived the most crucial year of her life. She turned one-year-old on July 20th.

RL58 has also been described as “feisty,” a characteristic that likely came in handy in those early days post-weaning when rough-housing with other young seals. She also shows great equanimity when large older male seals occasionally haul out near her.

During her first year, RL58 has also experienced two significant cookie cutter shark bites–one near her genital slit and the other above her right fore flipper. Both wounds healed quickly and completely. She appears in a good healthy condition.

Now that RL58 has turned one year old, we start to think about RH58–who has been sighted on Oahu looking pregnant. In fact, her estimated due date is August 4th. If she behaves like she has so many times before, she’ll make the journey across the Kaʻieʻie Waho Channel a few days before her due date, appearing on her natal beach a day or night before giving birth again. So, we may have another pup soon.

Here is RL58 in one of her regular spots, a lava rock intertidal area a short distance down the coastline from her natal beach.

IMG_8215IMG_8219IMG_8220IMG_8221

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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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