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Archive for the ‘RK30’ Category

In 2019, the south shore volunteer team was managing two, three, four and sometimes as many as six or seven seals at Poipu at the same time. Challenging times, indeed. Sometimes all seals clustered in one zone; sometimes they spread out over two or even three zones. Of course, the most challenging spot to manage human/seal interactions was the spot that seals liked most, which happened to be the main snorkeling water entrance/exit. In one emergency, lifeguards had to carry a drowning victim over two resting seals, literally, to bring her ashore for CPR. The good news is the rescue was a success, and the person recovered fully.

Then, earlier this year, when the COVID stay-at-home orders were instituted, the volunteer program was placed on hold, and tourism came to a virtual halt. We expected that the seals at Poipu would enjoy resting undisturbed. However, since the pandemic began, the seals seem to have disappeared from the Poipu area. One reason may be there are fewer people on the beaches, so there are fewer calls coming in the hotline. Make sense. But was there something else going on?

Here’s what a review of the data from the daily sightings log revealed:

As expected the number of seals reported in the Poipu area during April-August of this year dropped to a total of 73 sightings. The prior year, during the same five month window, there were a total of 257 reported seal sightings.

A comparison of the individual seals sighted in Poipu in 2019 versus 2020 during that same April-August window revealed the number of unique seals identified in the Poipu area dropped from 21 unique seals in 2019 to 12 in 2020. Too, there’s a slightly different cast of characters hauling out at Poipu this year.

Notably, the notorious “Poipu boys,” a group of rough-housing male seals, have split up with several moving to Oahu, and a couple others moving back to Niihau. From that notorious group, only RG58 remains, and he’s often spotted on the rocks near Brenneckes Beach these days.

Also, two seals from 2019 that occasionally hauled out at Poipu have died—RK30 of old age late last year and RJ36 of a hook ingestion several months ago. Apart from the loss of these two, all the other Poipu regulars of last year are still alive, based on sighting reports across the state.

What this tells us is seal behavior isn’t static, and just when you come to expect the expected out of a seal or group of seals or a particular haul-out location, things change.  As the old philosopher Heroclitus said, “Change is the only constant in life.” Guess he was talking about seals, too.

For more specifics take a look at the list of seals seen in 2019 and 2020.

April through August 2019 – These 21 individuals comprised the 257 reported seal sightings in the Poipu area from Shipwrecks to Lawai Beach):

NG00 -sighted at PMRF in 2020 and frequently on Niihau
R1KY
R1NI
R336 – rare seal
R339 – now an Oahu regular
R376
R3CX – now an Oahu regular
R402 – rare seal
R6FQ – sighted elsewhere on Kauai on 2019 and 2020
R7AA
RF28 – now an Oahu regular
RF30
RG22 – now an Oahu regular
RG58
RH38
RJ36 
RK30 – died of old age in late 2019
RK36 – occasional visitor from Oahu
RK90
RN02 – sighted at PMRF in 2020 and frequently on Niihau
RW22 – occasional visitor from Oahu

April through August 2020 – These 12 unique individuals made up the 73 reported seal sightings in the Poipu area (Shipwrecks to Lawai Beach): 

R1KY
R1NI
R339
R340 – rarely sighted on Kauai
R376
R407 – rarely sighted on Kauai
R7AA
RF30
RG58
RH38
RJ36 – died from hook ingestion in the first half of 2020
RK90

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RJ36 lineSadly, the story of three-year-old juvenile RJ36 ends with a cautionary tale about the deadly threat of fisheries interactions.

Last Monday, June 22, three-year-old juvenile RJ36 hauled out at a west side beach, reported to be breathing heavily and with a long fishing line wrapped around his body. A response was initiated, but, sadly, RJ36 expired before help could be provided. The heavy monofilament line with a metal “pigtail” swivel, used for ulua slide bait fishing, was found leading from his mouth.

Initial examination suggests cause of death was related to the ingestion of a fishing hook; however, the fish hook appeared to be fully ingested.

RJ36 was born to RK30 along Napali Coast in 2017. Since then, he’s been a west side and south shore regular. RJ36 was seen on the south shore several times earlier this year while molting.

Due to COVID-19, no necropsy was performed; however, the body was collected to be examined at a later date. This will help determine where the hook was lodged and how it caused his death. The necropsy will also assess his overall health to better understand the larger issues facing the species.

RJ36 PC NOAA Permit 18786The loss of RJ36’s is a reminder to encourage the use of barbless hooks when fishing. His loss is also a good reminder to conduct a health check for all monk seals you come across on the beach. Check the body for any entanglements with fishing line, and check the mouth for any hooks. Fishers who accidentally hook a monk seal are encouraged to report the hooking as soon as possible. On Kauai, call 1-808-651-7668.

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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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Monk Seal Monday #75: Tracking RH38

This year has been one of downs and ups for three-and-a-half-year-old RH38. It started with a drastic weight loss that earned the female a visit to Ke Kai Ola on Hawaii Island where she became the first wild Hawaiian monk seal to undergo a CT scan. After an extended stay and recovery from near death, RH38 was returned to Kauai, and it looks like she’ll end the year on a high. Turns out, RH38 is a survivor, like her mother. RH38 was born to the legendary RK30 in May 2016.

Thanks to a telemetry tracking device attached to her back when she was returned to the wild, scientists are able to keep an eye on her movements. (The telemetry device will fall off the next time RH38 molts, if not before.)

The “tracks” resulting from the device show RH38 has logged quite a few miles cruising nearly the entire circumference of Kauai.

RH38 Tracks

Here are some photos of RH38 from October that show her healthy body condition.

RH38 Werthwine 3

PC: M. Werthwine

PC

RH38 by Werthwine 2

PC: M. Werthwine

RH38 Werthwine

PC: M. Werthwine

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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.

IMG_6198

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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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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Another one of Kauai’s regular “puppers” has added to the Hawaiian Monk Seal population.

PK3’s arrival was reported to the Kauai Hawaiian Monk Seal Conservation Hui last Wednesday, July 10th. It’s not unusual for tour boat captains and kayak outfitters to alert us to new pups born in remote locations. This report came from Captain Rob. He also provided a photo, and in it, you can also see–if you squint really well–the remains of the afterbirth on the beach below the pup. This is a good indication the pup is quite young, maybe just hours old.

PK3 + K30

But the photo didn’t positively identify the mother. Based on the date and location (not identified here for the safety of the mom and pup); however, that narrowed the mother down to a couple suspected seals. Well, one, in particular.

Because the pupping site is in such a remote location, neither one of our NOAA/DLNR officials nor any of Kauai Hawaiian Monk Seal Conservation Hui volunteers were able to immediately respond to identify the mother. However, thanks to the work of one volunteer who is adept at searching social media, we now know the mother in question is none other than RK30.

It was one particular scar that confirmed RK30’s identity as the mother of PK3, as seen in an Instagram photo, that allowed her to be identified. The scar was that of an old entanglement wound from a line (rope) that once encircled her neck.

RK30 is somewhere around 20 years of age, give or take a year. She’s also one of the most storied monk seals around, having survived many threats to her life. Read more about RK30 here.

This is RK30’s 11th known pup.

image

PC: @tripoverthings

Screen Shot 2019-07-15 at 11.47.19 AM

PC: @tripoverthings

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In the Hawaiian monk seal world, the term “logging” refers to a behavior performed by monk seals when they float on the surface of the ocean–not actively swimming–for extended periods of time. This time of year, it’s a behavior some very pregnant seals may exhibit in the days leading up to their delivery.

In the coming weeks, several females who regularly pup on Kauai may be seen logging in shallow water. Based on their pupping dates last year, these females anticipated due dates are as follows:

  • RK22 – June 22. (Although there’s no sign of her yet.)
  • RK30 – July 1.
  • RK28 – July 13
  • RO28 – July 16
  • RH58 – August 1

Logging by near-term pregnant females is natural behavior in monk seals. However, extended periods of logging can also be symptomatic of underlying health problems. When RK13 was healing from a suspected shark bite, she spent a fair amount of time logging in the shallow water of freshwater canals.

Logging can also be a symptom of toxoplasmosis, a disease that can be deadly to monk seals. Toxo is the number one disease threat to Hawaiian 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.”

Since 2001, eleven Hawaiian monk seals have died of toxoplasmosis. Logging is one behavioral symptom. Of the 11 confirmed deaths due to toxo, eight were female. At least, two were pregnant. Unfortunately, once the disease progresses to the point of visual symptoms like logging, it can be too late for veterinarians to help. It’s not an easy death, either. It’s suspected the near-shore logging behavior occurs, because it’s too painful for the seal to haul out on the sand. In the days leading up to RB24‘s death due to toxoplasmosis, she was reported logging in canals on Oahu.

It can seem like a weird thing–how can the feces of pet (and feral) cats kill Hawaiian monk seals? To help explain, NOAA created this infographic and fact sheet. More information about toxoplasmosis can be found here and here.

And if you see a logging seal–whether pregnant or not–please report it to the Hawaiian monk seal hotline at 808-651-7668.

Screen Shot 2018-03-26 at 1.38.30 PMScreen Shot 2018-03-26 at 1.38.43 PM

 

 

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