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Archive for the ‘RH58’ Category

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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.

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The numbers are tallied. Below you’ll find the top ten “reported” Hawaiian monk seals on Kauai for 2019. By reported, we mean those monk seals that were reported—and identified—to the Hawaiian Monk Seal Conservation Hui hotline. (See a monk seal on the beach? Report it to 808-651-7668.)

Keep in mind, many things affect this list. Monk seals often have favorite locations where they haul out. 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. 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. Molting monk seals, too. As this list will also reveal, young monk seals–especially young males–are often sighted and reported, too, because they tend to make themselves noticed;-)

To make this list a little more interesting, we’ve included only those tagged seals, meaning pups are not included until they are weaned and tagged.

So, here goes:

  1. With 122 reported sightings, five-year-old male R3CX tops our list. He was flipper-tagged as a youngster at Keoneloa (colloquially known as Shipwrecks) beach in March 2015. Since then, he’s been commonly seen roughhousing with other males along the south shore and has been displaced from dangerous areas on more than one occasion. He was last seen on November 30th at Poipu.
  2. With 117 reported sightings, four-year-old male RG58 follows close behind. Not surprising since they can both be found hauled out on the same beach or roughhousing in shallow water. Born to RH58 in 2015 on the north shore, RG58 is regularly sighted on the south shore. He was last reported today at Poipu.
  3. With 116 reported sightings, six-year-old female R7GM ranks third. Those numbers were boosted by the fact that she molted this year. She was last reported on the north shore on December 27th.
  4. With 99 reported sightings, six-year-old male RN44 ranks fourth this year, also boosted by his reported molting. RN44 was born to RH58 in 2013 on the north shore where he’s a regular and has been reported interacting with weaners. He was last reported on the north shore on December 27th.
  5. With 97 reported sightings, mature female RK13 ranks fifth this year, boosted in her numbers by her molt. Most of the sightings come from the east side; however, she sometimes pops up on the south and west side of the island. She’s also been known to swim up and log in canals. This year, RK13 was displaced from the road edge at Fuji Beach, Kapaa at 3:00 in the morning after calls from the police reported she was on the road’s edge and in danger of being run over. RK13 was reported today to be hauled out on the east side.
  6. With 77 reported sightings, sub-adult, four-year-old male RG22 ranks sixth. He was born to RK22 on the north shore but quickly made his way to the south shore, hanging out with the boys on the south shore. Once, he was photographed wearing a pair of swim goggles around his neck. Luckily, they fell off after a couple days. He was last reported on the south shore on October 10th but has since started to wander and was recently sighted off Hawaii Island.
  7. With 73 reported sightings, mature female RK30 ranks seventh. She’s approximately 21 years old and has given birth to 11 known pups, including RL30 this year. She was last seen on November 8th at Mahaulepu.
  8. With 68 reported sightings, one-year-old female RKA2 ranks eighth. She was born on a remote beach along Na Pali Coast in 2018 to RK30. She was last reported on December 20th on the east side.
  9. With 62 reported sightings, eight-year-old female RK52 ranks ninth. Her sightings are bolstered by two things: she weaned her first pup this year, and she was reported molting. RK52 favors north shore beaches. She was born to RH58 and was last reported on a north shore beach on December 22nd.
  10. With 58 reported sightings, three-year-old female R1NS rounds out our top ten list. She was flipper-tagged on the east side in 2017 and is notable for her natural bleach marks on the first three digits of her left fore flipper. She was last sighted on the north shore on December 29th.

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The Kauai team logged 203 seal sightings this month. This included 31 individually identified seals.

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

New:

  • A second pup was born at a remote beach along Na Pali Coast. The ID of the mother is unknown, but likely the same Niihau female that has pupped on that beach the past two Septembers, R400. Tour boats and kayak companies are providing updates.

Updates:

  • Sub-adult female R7AA was seen with small lump under left jaw line on 8/31/19, possibly a small abscess. The seal has not been re-sighted since. The plan is to closely monitor.
  • RH58 (Rocky) successfully weaned her female pup, PK5. The pup was flipper-tagged and vaccinated and now has an ID of RL58.
  • RK30 successfully weaned her female pup, PK6. The pup was flipper-tagged, and the seal’s ID is now RL30.
  • RH38, the seal rehabbed at Ke Kai Ola and released in July, continues to thrive on the north shore.
  • The first three 2019 pups (RL08, RL52, and RL28) continue to be sighted in good condition at various north and east shore beaches.
  • Displacements: No seals were displaced this month.
  • Molting: Four seals were observed molting this month.
  • Vaccinations: PK4 and PK5 were vaccinated during pup tagging and received booster vaccinations three weeks later.
  • Bleach marking: One seal was bleach marked 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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After a lengthy 53 (possibly 55) days, RK30 weaned her pup, and PK3 is now officially RL30. At tagging, she (yes, female) measured 126 centimeters from the tip of her nose to the tip of her tail and measured 104 centimeters at her plumpest just below her fore flippers.

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PC. J. Thomton.

This is RK30’s 11th known pup and her longest known nursing period. Conservatively, she nursed for 53 days; however, she may have nursed for as long as 55. The exact date isn’t quite exact, because RK30 pupped on a remote beach and daily reports aren’t always daily. Prior to this year, RK30’s longest known nursing duration was 51 days (RJ36) in 2017 and her shortest known nursing bout was 46 days (RL24) in 2012.

RK30 is something of a poster-seal illustrating the kinds of threats these animals face. Her story of perseverance can be read here.

If you’re keeping count, Kauai’s mamas produced a total of three females and two males this year. In 2019, three regulars birthed and raised pups on Kauai–RK30, RK28, and RH58. After previously pupping on Maui and Lanai, RB00 pupped for the first time on Kauai, her birth island. And after giving birth to a stillborn pup last year, RK52 produced a healthy pup this year.

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Field Report: August 2019

Monthly Update: The Kauai team logged 324 seal sightings this month. This included 35 individually identified seals.

August: 324
July: 239
June: 179
May: 262
April: 348
March: 350
Feb: 303
Jan: 284

New:

  • Sub-adult female R7AA seen with small lump under left jaw line on 8/31/19, possibly a small abscess. The seal has not been resighted since. The plan is to closely monitor.

Updates:

  • RH38, the seal rehabbed at KKO and released in July continues to thrive on north shore.
  • The first two 2019 pups, RL08 and RL52, continue to be sighted in good condition at various north and east shore beaches.
  • The last two North Shore pups weaned in August and were tagged. These pups are both female and born to RK28 and RH58 (Rocky), both common Oahu adult females. Extensive pup-watch monitoring took place in August with very few issues.
  • Sightings of the remote Napali pup of RK30 continue to come in from tourboat and kayak tours on the Na Pali Coast. The pup weaned in the last week of August.
  • Displacements: R7AA was displaced away from the road edge at Lawai Beach.
  • Molting: 3 seals were observed molting this month.
  • Vaccinations: PK4 and PK5 were vaccinated during pup tagging.

Research/Support of Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center: (PIFSC):

  • Sub-sampled scat, molt, placenta, 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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Another pup has graduated to “weaner-hood” and received her (yes, female) official flipper tags. Meet RL58. Her mom, the renowned RH58 (Rocky), nursed PK5 for 45 days.

At tagging, RL58 measured 118 cm long and 96 cm around (girth). She’s reportedly doing well, even holding her own with RN44 (male) who has been spotted wrestling and swimming with her. A feisty female is good;-)

Here are some photos of her post-tagging.

(PC: M. Olry)

RL581

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On two consecutive days in July, two female Hawaiian monk seals hauled out onto the beach with heavy bellies and gave birth to pups. Since then, both pups have progressed as expected–nursing and gaining weight, losing their fetal folds; swimming in short bursts in shallow waters, then progressing to deeper water and longer swims. Now, pups are starting to molt their lanugo coats; as typical, most notably in their faces. There’s been no official confirmation of gender yet; however, typically, it takes longer to positively identify females. In the case of endangered Hawaiian monk seals, the more females, the better, so delays of this kind tend to bode well.

What follows are slide shows of PK4 and PK5. Both sets of photos were taken on August 12th. (FYI: Because PK3 was born  in a remote location, we do not have regular photo updates.)

Here’s RK28 and PK4, who was born on July 19th.

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And here’s RH58 (Rocky) and PK5, who was born one day later on July 20th.

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