Archive for the ‘RK28’ Category

Monk Seal Monday #113: RL28 Update

At long last, RL28 has been re-sighted, and she looks great–big and healthy.

RL28 was born to one of our regular “puppers” RK28 on July 19, 2019. She was observed often during her nursing days and after, including a few times in January and early February of this year. However, she hadn’t been re-sighted–and reported–since February 13, 2020.

It’s not unusual for Hawaiian monk seals to seemingly disappear for months on end. But it’s always good to get eyes on them every now and then to know they’re alive and well. That’s why reports to the Kauai Hawaiian Monk Seal Conservation Hui hotline (808-651-7668) are always helpful.

Photos like these are helpful, too, showing views from each side, rear flippers (with tags, if possible) and head-on. The use of a telephoto lens is super helpful, and allow program coordinators to 1) identify the seal (based on scars if there are no flipper tags); and 2) spot any evidence of entanglements, such as a fish hooks. In this case, RL28 is looking great.

Photo credit: J. Thomton.

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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


·       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.


·       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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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:


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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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.


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


  • 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.


  • 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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Monk Seal Monday #68: Meet RL28

After 40 days of nursing, RK28 weaned her pup (a female) early last week. By week’s end, PK4 officially became RL28. (Interesting side note: RL28’s left flipper tag is RL28; however, because there wasn’t an RL29 tag, her right flipper tag is RL33.)

RL28 measured 134.5 centimeters from the tip of her nose to the tip of her small tail. She measured 117 centimeters around (girth), taken just below her fore flippers.

Here are pictures of her looking nice and healthy the day before receiving her flipper tags.


PC: J. Thomton


PC: J. Thomton


PC: J. Thomton

And here are pictures of her enjoying a two-hour swim–where she was witnessed picking up, possibly, a sea cucumber–just prior to receiving her flipper tags.


PC: M. Olry


PC: M. Olry

Meanwhile, mom, RK28, has been spotted at various beaches on the north shore. Beachgoers have reported her, concerned about health and confused about her scars. They think they’re recent wounds. They are not. Several years ago, RK28 turned up with fresh wounds on her back that were determined to be the result of adult male aggression. You’ll find more about this threat to Hawaiian monk seal survival here. RK28’s condition will continue to be monitored, especially in this time right after weaning when it’s important that she recover her weight loss. This photo was taken over the weekend.


PC: Galasso

This is an older photo from 2016 shortly after RK28’s injuries.


PC: Sterling

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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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