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Archive for the ‘RK28’ Category

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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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.

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PC: J. Thomton

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PC: J. Thomton

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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.

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PC: M. Olry

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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.

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PC: Galasso

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

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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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Field Report: July 2019

The Kauai team logged 239 seal sightings this month. This included 28 individually identified seals.

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

New:

  • RK30 gave birth to PK3 on July 10 at a remote site along Na Pali coast that is accessible only by water. Kayak Kauai took signs out to post in key areas nearby.
  • RK28 gave birth to PK4 on July 19 at another remote location. Pup is thriving. Two stray German Shepherds were captured running loose near the newborn pup, on the day of birth and while RH58 was in labor.
  • RH58 gave birth to PK5 on July 20 just down the coast from RK28. With permission from NOAA, the Kauai team had to intervene and cut the umbilical cord to remove the placenta, which was still attached more than nine hours after birth.

Updates:

  • RH38 was released on July 22 after transport from Ke Kai Ola aboard a USCG C-130. Since then, she’s ranged across the North Shore and the Na Pali coast in the weeks following release and has showed no signs of interest in people on the beach or in the water.
  • The first two 2019 pups, RL08 and RL52, continue to thrive and range farther from their natal sites.
  • Displacements: 2 displacements occurred this month. Both were to remove S/F R7AA from the road edge. She was displaced a third time on Aug 1 from the Lawai Beach road edge as well.
  • Molting: 3 seals were observed molting this month.
  • Vaccinations: None given this month.

Research/Support of Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center

  • 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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Predicting delivery dates of babies is hard. Without the aid of physical examinations and sonograms, it’s even harder to predict the birth dates of Hawaiian monk seals. And yet NOAA has gotten pretty darn good at it.

RK28 was expected to give birth around July 13th. She pupped on July 19th. (Note the “milk nose.” That’s one of the indicators that a pup has figured out how to nurse.)

PK4 Milk Nose

PC: VJBloy

PK4 in the Rain

PC: VJBloy

On the same day PK4 was born, two loose dogs were reported romping in the surf just down the beach from RK28 and pup. Thankfully, friendly people on the beach caught the dogs and prevented them from harming the seals. You may recall that RK28 lost a pup due to a dog(s) attack several years ago. You can read more about that tragedy here. So, this is a good opportunity to remind people not to let their dogs roam free.

One day later, RH58 gave birth to PK5.

RH58’s due date was predicted as August 1st, give or take. Instead, she pupped on July 20th. This was particularly challenging due date to estimate, since RH58, also known as Rocky, pre-weaned her pup last year after several pup-switches. You can read more about that here. But as these photos show, Rocky and pup are doing well and bonding nicely.

Rocky Napping on PK5

PC: VJBloy

PK5 and Rocky Napping

PC: VJBloy

PK5 Nursing

PC: VJBloy

 

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Earlier this year, we reported on male competition taking places along the shoreline on Kauai’s south side. It can get pretty aggressive–and another good reason to steer clear of monk seals in the water.

Now, we want to share about another kind of aggression among monk seals. This interaction generally but not always takes place between a group of males and a single female and is called male mobbing. Like “cruising males,” the perpetrators tend to be a group of competing sub-adult males.

In 2016, RK28 was observed with large wounds and abscesses on her back. It was determined these wounds were caused by male monk seals who had attempted to mount her and while doing so, biting her repeatedly on the back. The wounds can be pretty severe and certainly disconcerting-looking to our eyes. For good reason, it turns out.

According to the NOAA Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center’s website, “Events involving multiple and single adult male Hawaiian monk seals exhibiting aggression towards adult females and immature seals has led to a significant number of severe injuries and deaths. Unfortunately, the loss of even a single female, and the loss of her lifetime reproductive potential, represents a significant setback to population recovery of this endangered species.”

Luckily, RK28 went on to give birth in 2018, and she’s thought to be pregnant again this year. If so, she may pup any time now.

Last week, one of our diligent volunteers ran across a video on Instagram, presumably taken in the waters off the nearby islands of Niihau and Lehua. In the caption, tour boat captain @crazy_capt_r writes, “This was an incredible experience! This is a very dramatic scene of the Hawaiian monk seal’s [sic] mating. In the video there are 9 males vying to mate with 1 female. She slips away from one male only to be grabbed by one of the other males waiting nearby. This is only a partial video of the whole ordeal. This went on for at least 30 minutes before they dispersed into deeper water.”

Here’s a link to the video. Warning: it might be disturbing to some people.

Tracy Mercer with the Hawaiian Monk Seal Science Team reviewed the video and confirmed the behavior is more consistent with male mobbing than mating. She also reported that she’s seen many females on Niihau with the scars from mobbing events. So, it’s not all that unusual, especially in pockets of the population when males greatly outnumber females. In fact, there have been instances over the years in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, where approximately 85 percent of the species’ population resides, that have led to the demise of enough females to cause NOAA to intervene.

Also from the NOAA PIFSC website:

Over an 11 year period from 1984-1994, 37 male seals were selectively removed from Laysan Island to restore a balanced sex ratio. These seals were translocated to Johnston Atoll (n=9) or the main Hawaiian Islands (n=21), placed into captivity (n=5), or died (n=2). Following removal, instances of injury or death from multiple male aggression events drastically declined. The removal of these males from the Laysan Island population has contributed to the restoration of a balanced sex ratio and has proven a valuable mitigation strategy.

Single male aggression events have most notably occurred at French Frigate Shoals and more recently at Kure Atoll. Intervention efforts include hazing of identified aggressors, translocating pups from areas where aggressive males frequent, treating injured seals when appropriate and removal of the adult male. The 3 adult males at French Frigate Shoals observed to repeatedly target pups, were translocated to Johnston Atoll (n=2 in 1998) or euthanized (n=1 in 1991). One adult male was brought into permanent captivity in 2013 after he had been observed injuring pups at Kure Atoll. This mitigation strategy effectively reduced pup deaths as a result of adult male aggression at this site.

But here’s the interesting thing. Tracy also reported the actual mating behavior and practices of Hawaiian monk seals is a bit of a mystery. Presumably it takes place in the water, not on land. In the numerous decades of Hawaiian monk seal research, no one on staff with the Hawaiian Monk Seal Science Team has witnessed the actual mating of monk seals. A few non-staff people have reported mating taking place nearshore. But that hasn’t been scientifically confirmed.

To read more about adult male aggression, click here. And if you see a female with fresh wounds on her back, please report it to the Kauai Hawaiian Monk Seal hotline at 808-651-7668. This will allow the animal’s health to be assessed. If the injuries are severe, she may be treated with antibiotics to prevent the wounds from becoming infected. Then again, Hawaiian monk seals have an amazing natural ability to heal. We’ve seen it time and again.

 

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