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Archive for the ‘RH58’ Category

Hawaiian monk seals can pup anytime throughout the year, but the majority tend to do so in the spring and summer. Typically, at the start of the year, our team starts tracking pregnant females, watching out for the regulars like RH58, RK30, and RK13. But the list will also include others and can tally more than 10. But we’ve yet to hit double digits in annual pup births on Kauai—at least, in recent history. There are likely moms who miscarry and others (like RK52) who produce stillborn pups. But a handful of pregnant females seem to disappear right before they give birth. Then, they return six or eight weeks later looking thin.

In science, “philopatry” is the tendency for an animal to stay or habitually return to the same place. “Natal philopatry” is the tendency for an animal to return to their birthplace to breed. In the case of Hawaiian monk seals, we often—but not always—see females return to their birthplace to pup. 

The Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program estimate approximately 300 of the endangered pinnipeds make their home in the Main Hawaiian Islands. On Kauai, we roughly estimate 50, although some seals do make inter-island trips. The island associated with the greatest number of monk seals is Niihau—at 150. Roughly 15 ocean miles separate Kauai from our neighbor island of Niihau. This is not a considerable journey for monk seals. In 2010, one monk seal outfitted with a tracking device made a 2,000-mile pelagic journey. So, for monk seals, 15 miles might be considered a walk in the park. And this can explain why 10 pregnant seals sighted on Kauai beaches results in five pups born on Kauai. A few return to their birth place on Niihau when it’s time for them to pup.

Here’s some data to illustrate:

RK14: A Kauai regular who was observed in 2017 with a pup on Niihau. RK14’s window of absence from Kauai was 8/16/17 to 11/23/17, but she isn’t sighted routinely–she likes to haul out on remote North Shore and Na Pali beaches, so her absence was most likely shorter.

R1KY: A Kauai regular who was observed in 2017 with a pup on Niihau. R1KY’s window of absence from Kauai was 4/8/17 to 6/16/17. In 2018 she wasn’t sighted on Kauai from 5/30/18 to 7/17/18, but no surveys happened on Niihau during this window so we’re unsure if she pupped. Here are before and after photos of her.

R1KY on 04182018R1KY on 07172018

R313: In 2017, she disappeared from 7/26/17 until 9/23/17, looking very large in July, but still pretty big when she came back, so we’re not sure what happened during that time. In 2018, she looked large and had teats protruding on 6/26/18 and was next sighted back on Kauai on 9/1/18 looking thin. 

In 2017, RK28 was on Kauai with teats protruding on 6/5/17, then gone until 8/24/17 when she was reported as “thin.” In 2018 she pupped on Kauai’s North Shore.

In 2018, RK90 likely pupped on Niihau between 12/28/17 and 2/17/18.

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Here’s the first interaction of RK58 and another pup named Sole at Ke Kai Ola. Sole was born on Molokai and is the older and larger of the two.

Like RK58, Sole was rescued and delivered to Ke Kai Ola–known colloquially as the Monk Seal Hospital–due to another mom-pup switch while nursing. Since 2014, Ke Kai Ola has cared for Hawaiian monk seals–mostly pups and weaners–at their facility at Kailua-Kona on Hawaii Island. Ke Kai Ola was built through a cooperative effort between the Marine Mammal Center and the Hawaii Wildlife Fund.

Also, speaking of RH58, on August 16, she was reported to be back on Oahu where she spends her non-motherhood days.

Meanwhile, back on Kauai, the first female to give birth this year, RK13, is putting on weight after weaning her pup, RK42. As you know, females do not feed during the five to seven weeks they nurse their pups, growing skinnier by the day. Typically, females will go into estrus sometime after weaning. They’ll also go through an annual molt in the weeks and months after weaning; however, RK13 hasn’t molted yet. She has been sighted with male R6FQ on numerous occasions since August 11th.

R6FQ is a seven-year-old male who is easily identified by deep line scars at the base of his left rear flipper, possibly sustained during a propeller strike when he was a juvenile. Prior to hanging around RK13, he was repeatedly sighted during June and half of July with RK90.

RK90 is an adult female who was likely born on Niihau. She popped up on a Kauai Beach as a juvenile in 2013 with a fish hook in her mouth. It was removed and at the same time she was flipper-tagged. Last May, she was also found with a large fish hook sticking out of her mouth. This was her second known hooking. Both hooks were successfully removed on the beach. Late last year, 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.

 

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Monthly Update:
The Kauai team logged 35 individually identified seals on Kauai in July for a grand total of 414 seal sightings this month. This equates to over 13 monk seals sighted and reported per day.

June: 315
May: 332
April: 302
March: 299

New:

  • RH58 “Rocky” gave birth to male pup PK5 on 7/16/18.
  • 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) and transported him to Lihue for USCG C130 transport to Ke Kai Ola for rehab mid-day on 8/4/18.
  • 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 seal’s mouth.

Updates on previous reports:

  • RK28 gave birth to PK3 on June 26.
  • RO28 gave birth to PK4 on June 30.
  • Bleach markings: No bleaches were applied.
  • Morbillivirus vaccinations: No seals were vaccinated.

Research/Support of PIFSC

  • Sub-sampled placenta from RH58.
  • Sub-sampled scat, molt, and tissue plug samples accordingly.
  • Logged all seal sightings for Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center (PIFSC) database. Organized photos and reported sightings, molt tallies, survival factors to send to PIFSC.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Endangered Hawaiian monk seal rescued on Kaua‘i stabilizes at Ke Kai Ola, a dedicated hospital for monk seals on Hawai‘i Island

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PC: G. Langley

(Kailua-Kona, Hawai‘i – Aug. 6, 2018) – A Hawaiian monk seal pup recently rescued on Kaua‘i is now in stable 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 male pup, RK58, was born on July 16 to monk seal RH58 (Rocky) and involved in a switch with another mom-pup pair on the same beach. Multiple attempts at reunification were ultimately unsuccessful, leading to the decision to rescue the pup before weather conditions prevented intervention.

“While surprising to see a second mom-pup switch on the Main Hawaiian Islands, The Marine Mammal Center is prepared to provide rehabilitative care to any Hawaiian monk seal in need,” says Dr. Claire Simeone, the Center’s Hospital Director at Ke Kai Ola. “Each individual animal’s survival is critical to support the recovery of the population, and we are grateful to give RK58 a second chance at life.”

Pup switches are a natural occurrence that are observed annually in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, but are less common in the Main Hawaiian Islands due to the lower density of moms and pups. Last month, experts from The Marine Mammal Center and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) made the decision to rescue Sole, a young male pup born on Moloka‘i that was also involved in a mom-pup pair switch. This is only the second observed occurrence of this type of switch in the Main Hawaiian Islands.

“This is an unfortunate but natural occurrence that we do see in the wild,” says Jessie Bohlander, Research Marine Biologist and Acting Program Lead for NOAA Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center’s (PIFSC) Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program (HMSRP). “We are lucky to have a great partnership between NOAA, the Hawaiʻi Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), The Marine Mammal Center, and others to quickly handle these situations and are hopeful that RK58 will do well at Ke Kai Ola and be successfully released back to the wild.”

On July 16, Rocky gave birth on a remote Kaua‘i beach near two other mom-pup pairs. The animals were observed daily by trained biologists and volunteers with NOAA and DLNR. At about five days of age, volunteers saw RK58 switch nursing mothers with another pup. NOAA and DLNR personnel initiated reunification attempts, and Rocky took her pup back immediately with no aggression or confusion.

Late last week, RK58 switched mothers again. Due to a difference in ages of the pups and a concern that RK58 would not be able to nurse long enough from a different mom, reunification efforts were again attempted. Unfortunately, Rocky rejected her pup and displayed signs of aggression toward him. Rocky then left the area, and her pup was left on its own after having nursed for a total of 19 days, well short of the typical 35 to 50 day nursing duration. It was clear that intervention was critical to ensure the pup’s survival.

 

“As we do with all our monk seal moms and pups, we worked hard to ensure Rocky had a successful nursing period. We did everything we could to keep Rocky and her pup together, but despite our best

efforts, Rocky stopped nursing her pup and we had to intervene to save the pup’s life,” says Jamie Thomton, the Kaua‘i Marine Mammal Response Program Coordinator with NOAA Fisheries Service. “However, we are fortunate that the Hawaiian monk seal hospital Ke Kai Ola is prepared to accept orphaned pups like RK58.”

Dr. Simeone, along with Mr. Thomton from NOAA and Mimi Olry from DLNR, led the rescue effort for the pup this past Saturday ahead of anticipated weather conditions that would make a transport impossible. The United States Coast Guard provided a flight for Dr. Simeone on a C130 from Honolulu to Kaua‘i, and then on to Hawai‘i Island to safely transport the seal to Ke Kai Ola. Dr. Simeone accompanied the seal throughout the transport and is providing supportive care at the hospital with the assistance of staff and volunteers.

During an initial exam, Dr. Simeone noted that the pup is malnourished but otherwise stable. He is currently receiving nutrition in the form of electrolyte tube feedings, and as he grows stronger will transition to eating whole fish. The team plans to quarantine RK58 from Sole until veterinarians can confirm that RK58 is free from infectious disease. Sole continues to progress well in rehabilitation as he makes the transition from tube feeding to free feeding on whole fish. Human interaction will be minimal to ensure that both seal pups stay wild. Once each seal reaches a healthy body condition and is able to forage on its own, it will be released back to the wild.

It is rare to rescue a monk seal from the main Hawaiian Islands, and this young pup is only the third pup from the main islands to be rehabilitated by the Center. The Marine Mammal Center is a member of the Pacific Island Region Marine Mammal Response Network and is responsible for monitoring the seals that haul out on Hawai‘i Island.

The Marine Mammal Center has rehabilitated 23 monk seals since opening Ke Kai Ola in 2014, the majority of which were rescued from the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. The Center is proud to partner with NOAA to support conservation efforts for the Hawaiian monk seal. 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.

Volunteers are needed at the Kona hospital and visitor center in a variety of roles, including animal care, education and response. Interested individuals should visit MarineMammalCenter.org/KKO-volunteerto learn more about the opportunities available.

ABOUT THE MARINE MAMMAL CENTER

The Marine Mammal Center is guided and inspired by a shared vision of a healthy ocean for marine mammals and humans alike. Our mission is to advance global ocean conservation through marine

mammal rescue and rehabilitation, scientific research, and education. Since 1975, the Center has been headquartered in the Marin Headlands, Sausalito, Calif., within the Golden Gate National Parks and has rescued and treated over 20,000 marine mammals. In 2014, the Center opened Ke Kai Ola, a hospital and visitor center dedicated to the endangered Hawaiian monk seal, in Kailua-Kona, Hawai‘i. Ke Kai Ola recently launched a new middle-school marine science program and participates in a number of education and community outreach programs on its own and with community partners.

For more information, please visit MarineMammalCenter.org. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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Based on this great photo from a long-time dedicated volunteer, it appears that RH58’s (Rocky’s) pup known for now as PK5 is male! The telltale sign in males something called the penile groove. Instead of five dots on their bellies that females possess, males will have just two.

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PC: G. Langley

Here’s another diagram. (Source: NOAA)

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In the photo above, PK5 is 10 days old old. Another male, PK3 (mother is RK28) was born on June 26. Twenty days separate the two males in age but notice the great difference in size and color as the older pup starts to molt his natal coat, starting with the belly.

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PC: G. Langley

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PC: G. Langley

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Apologies for posting a day late. We were awaiting a new video of RH58 (Rocky) and her pup (who are doing quite well) from NOAA, and here it is:

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Elsewhere, Kauai’s first pup of the year–RK42–continues to explore the coastline along her natal site, developing nicely as a “weaner.” (What pups are called after their mothers wean them and before they turn one year old.)

RK30 is still nursing PK2, a male.

(Did you know pups are referred to as “PK” for “Pup Kauai” followed by their birth order for the year. Thus, RK42 was originally tracked as “PK1.” Once pups wean, they are flipper-tagged and given their science name, which is really a number. For more on flipper-tagging, click here.)

RK28 is still nursing PK3, also a male.

RO28 is also still nursing PK4, a female.

So, that’s two females and two males for the year thus far. As for PK5, at this point, gender is still unknown.

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Sightings:

The Kauai team logged 33 individually identified monk seals on Kauai in May, for a grand total of 332 sightings. This equates to more than 10 monk seals sighted and reported per day.

New:

  • Juvenile female R7AA hauled out onto roads or parking lots three times in the Poipu area this past month. In order to prevent injury from vehicle traffic she was quickly displaced back onto the beach and into the water.
  • We are currently tracking several pregnant females that we expect to pup any day now. That includes the well known RK30 and a more reclusive seal RK22. Two other females, RH58 and RO28, that are typically on Oahu but come back to their birth beaches on Kauai to pup, are both pregnant and approaching their due dates.

Updates:

  • RK13 gave birth to PK1 on 4/20/2018. Extensive monitoring was immediately set-up and continues. Pup weaned after 37 days of nursing. Tagged as RK42. Mother, RK13, became unusually thin prior to weaning, but has been sighted several times since weaning. The pup has begun socializing with other seals, specifically with a 3-year old female bleach-marked V2.

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