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Archive for the ‘RI37’ Category

Last week Thursday, the Hawaiian monk seal that many on Kauai first knew as K01 was found dead on a windward Oahu beach. Her cause of death was not apparent. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, she was moved to a location on private property and buried.

Interestingly, K01 was the first Hawaiian monk seal to be identified on Kauai in 2002 when NOAA PIFSC biologists first started inventorying seals in the Main Hawaiian Islands. She was identified as an adult, so assumed to be, at least, five years of age. That would put her somewhere in the neighborhood of 23 years old when she died.

Shortly after K01 was first identified, she was flipper-tagged as 5AY and 5AZ on May 14, 2003. Her official designation was R5AY. There’s some indication that she was also de-hooked at this time, as records indicate she was sedated for the procedure.

R5AY gave birth for the first time in 2005 on Kauai’s north shore. That female pup was flipper-tagged as I37. After that, R5AY pupped on Oahu in 2006 and 2008; however, she returned to Kauai to pup in 2009. That pup, another female, was flipper-tagged as A20. Since then, 5AY has spent most of her life and has pupped at a popular beach on Oahu’s north shore, eventually earning the nickname “Honey Girl” by the community.

In 2013, R5AY had a nasty encounter with a fishhook that nearly left her dead. The hook got stuck in her cheek and, along with a raging infection in her tongue, she couldn’t eat. She grew so emaciated that she was reported dead and floating in the water. She was eventually captured and in a novel surgical procedure, approximately two-thirds of her tongue was removed. Amazingly, she survived and went on to contribute to the Hawaiian monk seal population.

Screen Shot 2020-04-27 at 6.03.00 PMR5AY’s experience with the fish hook and surgery sparked a children’s book that was written about her experience.

It’s no exaggeration to say R5AY was a matriarch of Hawaiian monk seals in the main Hawaiian Islands. She will be greatly missed.

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The first main Hawaiian Island pup for 2015 was born last week to R5AY on Oahu. She’s a Kauai and Oahu seal, but mostly an Oahu seal these days. You may remember R5AY suffered from a severely hooked tongue in 2013 that required surgical removal of a portion of it. Here’s a snapshot of her life:
Background: Tagged in 2002 as an adult on Kauai – so currently at least 18 years old (assuming 5 yrs old when first seen – min age of sexual maturity)

Has mostly spent her time since between Kauai and Oahu

Pupping History

2005 – Kauai  RI37 (female)

2006 – Oahu  (female)

2008 – Oahu  (male)

2009 – Kauai  RA20 (female)

2010 – Oahu  (female)

2011 – Oahu  (female)

2012 – Oahu  (female)

2014 – Oahu (female)

2015 – Oahu. Born February 25th. Sex unknown (so far)

Interesting facts/incidents with her other pups:

– Two females died from entangling in gillnets in the Bellows/Waimanalo area on Oahu.

– RI37 has some large scars on her back – potentially from a propeller. Possibly because of the scars or other related internal injuries, she has had a history of miscarriages/abortions and stillborn pups. As of now, she has not yet had a live birth.

Hooking/Entanglement Summary for R5AY

– First reports from kite surfers near Malaekahana State Recreation Area of a seal floating entangled/dead.

– 14 November 2012 – Report of R5AY with hook in cheek on land. Covered in algae. Severely emaciated.

– 17 November – Captured at Sunset Beach by NMFS Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center (PIFSC) staff. Brought to Waikiki Aquarium.

– 19 November – Surgery at Honolulu Zoo w/Drs. Gregg Levine, Michelle Barbieri, and Miles Yoshioka (soft tissue surgeon). Removed ~2/3rds of her tongue

– Recovery at Waikiki Aquarium. Progressed from eating dead fish to capturing live fish in pool.

– 29 November – Released near Turtle Bay. Was fitted with satellite transmitter to track movements.

– Continued surveys by volunteers after release to track location and body condition.

– 12 December – Captured by PIFSC staff to give antibiotics, take blood sample, assess body condition. Appeared to be continuing recovery.

– Mid-January 2013 – Satellite tag stopped transmitting or fell off.

– Mid-February – Molted her fur

Other interesting info regarding monk seal reproduction:

– Gestation length of monk seals is unknown. Period between pup birth dates is ~381 days (on average). After 6 weeks of nursing, females are usually seen ~19 days later with scratches & injuries that imply mating. So the assumption is that gestation is somewhere around 10-11 months. But other seals have delayed implantation – so who knows?

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