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Update: RH38

 

HMS_RH38_photo (7) by Laura Grote © The Marine Mammal Center_NOAA permit #18786 (1)

Photo by Laura Grote © The Marine Mammal Center, NOAA permit #18786

In our recent “Field Report, we shared that RH38, a yearling female, had been observed steadily losing weight over the summer. On August 11, she was transported by a US Coast Guard C-130 to Kona, where she is being rehabilitated at Ke Kai Ola, the Hawaiian monk seal hospital.

As you may recall, RH38 was born to RK30 last year, our first birth of 2016.

When RH38 was admitted to Ke Kai Ola, she weighed 88 pounds, about half her size at weaning a year prior. It’s not unusual for monk seal weaners to lose weight as they learn how to forage on their own, but, clearly, RH38’s weight had dropped more so than other yearlings her age. An exam performed at Ke Kai Ola revealed RH38 was carrying a heavy infestation of tapeworms. Intestinal parasites are not uncommon in monk seals, but have been documented to inhibit growth and even cause death in young Hawaiian monk seals. After treatment, RH38 is now eating well and gaining weight a good clip. She’s expected to be released from Ke Kai Ola’s care in the next couple months.

“This is why we built Ke Kai Ola,” said Dr. Shawn Johnson, Director of Veterinary Science at the Marine Mammal Center, on the Center’s website. “If we want to save this species, every monk seal female counts, so we’re proud to be able to provide long-term rehabilitative care to monk seals like RH38 and ensure they are able to survive and thrive in their ocean home.”

HMS_RH38_photo (8) by Laura Grote © The Marine Mammal Center_NOAA permit #18786

Photo by Laura Grote © The Marine Mammal Center, NOAA permit #18786

Because RH38 will be released back into the Main Hawaiian Island population, where there’s a good chance she may encounter humans, the staff at Ke Kai Ola is taking great precaution in treating RH38 so that she does not associate humans with food. We want all our monk seals to continue to be the wild animals they are.

Click here to read more about the great work that Ke Kai Ola is doing with Hawaiian monk seals and other pinnipeds.

We’ll continue to report on RH38’s progress, so check back periodically.

 

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Field Report: September

V93 is now R7AA!

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PC: B. Becker

A yearling female that showed up on our north shores in late June, made her way south in August. She hauled up several times at Lawai Beach where the NOAA Science Center scientists and veterinarian were able to capture and examine her healing abscess and, with the Kauai team, flipper tag her (7AA/7AB).

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PC: B. Becker

She was given a long acting antibiotic, and fitted with a cell phone transmitter, so we can monitor her movements, foraging and follow her health.

Seals of Concern Updates

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PC: M. Olry

RH38: A female yearling seal that was underweight, was transported August 11 by US Coast Guard C-130 to Kona, where she is being rehabilitated at Ke Kai Ola, the Hawaiian monk seal hospital. Her admission weight was 40 kg and she was treated for tapeworms, which were causing her to do poorly. She is eating well, and now is at 46 kg. She has two companions from the NWHI, one admitted in June and the other in August. The plan is to complete her treatment for tapeworms and to allow her to gain enough weight to insure her success after release in another month or two.

Hooked Seals
hooked-seal-image000001-2.jpgThe adult male seal that was hooked in his back threw off the hook, and continues to be seen at Poipu, he is now freshly molted and known as Temp331.

An unknown seal was reported by a fisherman on the rocks at Kaumakani point last week. The hook is in the right corner of the mouth and is non-life threatening. We do not know of the identification of this seal, whether it has tags or its sex. It may be a young adult or subadult, possibly a Ni’ihau seal, so keep a lookout!

Seal Research

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PC: B. Becker

The NOAA Pacific Islands Science Center research biologists were on Kauai for a week working with the Kauai team to find a subadult or adult male seal to deploy a new streamlined “critter” camera. Searching all coasts, practically all of Kauai’s seals were sighted! Many of the mature males were either starting or finishing their molts, so they were not candidates.

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PC: B. Becker

Finally R1KT (molts in Dec.) was found on a quiet sandy beach. The team was able to capture him and place a camera (in front) and cell phone transmitter to help relocate him to remove the camera three days later to retrieve the footage. The instruments not only gave a visual video record of movements, but also location, depth of dives, time periods and speed! We look forward to learning what R1KT has to teach us!

We thank the many volunteers that searched with us and responded to mul- tiple seal haul outs to find a good candi- date. We also found a new large adult male, fairly clean, without scars, not known to our records. With additional experienced seal handlers, we were able to capture this seal and tag him. He is now called R2XS with tags (2XS/2XR).

Famous Waikiki Pup Translocated
RH58’s weaned pup, is now known by her tags at RJ58 and still remembered as Kaimana, the Ha- waiian name for her natal beach. Because of vari- ous risk assessments and considerations, she was translocated to a north shore beach to put her in a safe location, where she could interact with other seals and safely forage and explore without the human crowds and dangers at Waikiki.

Also the whole story written by a NOAA biologist can be found here.

Additional Marine Animal News
The State Board of Land and Natural Resources Approves New Boating Rules that will prohibit feeding of wildlife or feral animals, and abandoning animals, and creating or contributing to colonies at any property under the boating division’s jurisdiction. These new sections were added in response to complaints about increased feeding of feral animals at boating facilities, which creates potentially unsafe and unsanitary conditions and endangers sea life.

The board approved both amended rules but deferred implementation of a provision that would allow disposal of feral or abandoned animals at state small-boat harbors until Jan. 1, 2019. The delay was to give time for the boating division to work with animal caregivers to come up with a viable plan to relocate colonies of feral and abandoned animals to areas outside of the small-boat harbors.

NOTE: Cats are the only reproductive host of the parasite toxoplasmosis, which has killed monk seals, and continues to threaten human and other marine mammal health. Click here.

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(P)update #10

Another late-season pup for 2017!

Last week, we learned about a new pup born at a remote beach along Kaua’i’s northwest coast. Pup looks healthy and strong and based on its lanugo coat, appears to be approximately three weeks old already. We have not yet been able to identify gender. Nor have we been able to identify the mom. She likely spends most of her time across the channel at Niihau. But we have noted some tell-tale scars, including a significant shark bite scar over her right posterior side, so we’ll likely be able to identify her if she pops up again on Kauai. The only way to access this beach is by boat, and since this pup was born in late summer, we may not get a team out to tag this youngster before winter’s waves arrive. Meanwhile, enjoy these photos.

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PC: J. Thomton

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PC: J. Thomton

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PC: J. Thomton

boy or girl1

PC: J. Thomton

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PC: J. Thomton

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PC: J. Thomton

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PC: J. Thomton

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Field Report: Summer

2017 pups are all weaned and tagged!

Monk Seal Pup RJ22-2All weaned pups this year are males (all three last year were females, born to the same moms at same locations!). RK30’s pup born along the Na Pali coast, is a nice big healthy weaner, now known as RJ36 (tagged J36/J37). We are grateful to Captain Tara Leota and Kauai Sea Riders for assistance to monitor and deliver the Kauai team to tag this pup.

RK22 weaned her pup RJ22 (tagged J22/J23) on the northeast coast and was found one morning entangled in in monofilament fishing line. Fortunately, while we were monitoring,  he was able to free himself from the fishing line. This demonstrates why it is so important to check the seals regularly–and to pick up marine debris whenever possible.

The last pup to wean, was RO28’s pup now known as RJ28 (tagged J28/J29). This pup remains on his natal beach while RJ22 has already started exploring more of the coast, moving south.

Seals of Concern Updates

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Photo credit: Miyashiro.

RH92, juvenile female was translocated from Kapaa to PMRF in March. We are pleased to report that even though she returned to the Fuji Beach area she is no longer logging nor feeding on fish scraps in the canal. She continues to forage normally along the east coast and just finished her first molt.

Another yearling female, RH38, is getting ready to molt along the north shore, and we are monitoring her closely as her weight is low.

Unusual hook discovery

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Photo credit: Thomton 

An unknown, untagged, clean adult male seal showed up on the south shore with a large J-hook stuck in his back. A second J-hook was attached with a metal leader and there was 17 feet of very heavy (400 lb) monofilament trailing. Coordinators were able to cut away all of monofilament and the dangling second hook.

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Photo credit: Thomton

The remaining hook embedded in the skin is non-life threatening and will eventually come out on its own, however we will closely monitor this seal and intervene if necessary. Fishermen have informed us that the gear that hooked the seal is used to catch marlin by trolling behind a fast moving boat.

Meanwhile, in Waikiki

One of Kauai’s longtime breeding females, RH58 or “Rocky,” pupped on at Kaimana Beach in Waikiki on Oahu–and instantly became the darling of beachgoers. The mom and pup, a female, provided NOAA staff and volunteers with additional concern when they swam inside the Natatorium by way of an opening in its crumbling seawall. Eventually, once RH58 weaned her fat and healthy pup, the pup was relocated to a more remote location for her safety. As we’ve discussed here many times, young seals are most vulnerable right after weaning. This is a time they spend exploring their natal beach, learning what’s edible and what isn’t. At this age, they are quite curious and social, approaching other seals and, even, people on the beach and in the water as they go about figuring out how to survive as a seal on their own. For her safety, scientists decided to move RH58’s pup to a more remote location.

And at Midway Atoll

A mother monk seal bit a woman–an employee with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service–several times while the woman was swimming in the only section of water open for recreational use. The monk seal approached the woman from an adjacent beach where she had pupped. The woman remained on Midway to recover from her injuries. While this incident is extremely unfortunate, it is a good reminder that monk seals are wild animals and that each seal is an individual, each reacting differently to what might seem to be similar situations.

 

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(P)update #9

Like we’ve shared before, one of the most crucial times of a monk seal’s life are those weeks after weaning. No longer fed by their mother, the weaner must discover on their own what’s edible and what’s not. Sometimes this involves ingesting some marine organism not typical of a monk seal’s diet, say a sea cucumber. Considered “generalists” by scientists, adult monk seals forage on the ocean floor, using their strong necks to flip over rocks at average depths of 200 feet and deeper, dieting on octopus, eel, flat fish, lobster, and squid.

But not weaners. For the first few months after weaning, they stick closer to shore.

Too, the business of finding food requires monk seals stick their faces in all kinds of nooks and crannies. Weaners seem to excel at this in their curious quest by trial and error to determine their food preferences. Unfortunately, weaners can sometimes run into dangerous situations this way. A few years ago, a young seal hauled out with a plastic ring around his muzzle. That same year, another youngster hauled out with a decaying plastic water bottle around his nose. Some have been found with plastic eel cones affixed to their faces. Last year, one of our volunteers discovered a pup playing with the plastic remains of such a hagfish/eel trap. Now, RJ22, our oldest weaner of the 2017 pupping season ran into a wad of monofilament fishing line left behind at the beach. Luckily, he was able to disentangle himself from the line without intervention.

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Here the monofilament line runs through his mouth and around his lower jar.

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Note, too, the line around his body–above his fore flippers.

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A coiled section of line can also be seen alongside his body here, as well as, some by the mouth.

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More line entangled in and around the face.

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It’s hard to make out, but in addition to RJ22’s flipper, there’s wad of line in his mouth.

Our local Surfrider group of volunteers does an excellent job of cleaning up our Kaua`i beaches, and for this, we are most grateful. You can help, too, by collecting marine debris on your beach outings, as well as, at home, no matter where you live–by making different consumer choices to reduce plastic consumption. For ideas on how to do that, click here.

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Last week, on a sunny day, our second pup of the year graduated to “weaner” status and was tagged RJ36. After about six weeks of dedicated nursing, RJ36’s mother, RK30, weaned him and headed back to the nourishing depths of the ocean to replenish the approximate one-third body weight she lost during the nearly six weeks she nursed RJ36 to a healthy weaner weight in the neighborhood of 175 pounds.

While the procedure to tag monk seal weaners only takes about five minutes, the effort to tag this pup took much longer–all due to the remote location of where RK30 chose to birth.

For years now, the Kauai Hawaiian Monk Seal Hui has been aided when accessing remote beaches by marine biologist Captain Tara Leota, sole owner-operator of Kauai Sea Rider Adventures. Captain Tara leads small groups of ecologically-minded guests on snorkeling adventures around Kauai. Captain Tara, her crew, and her guests welcomed our tagging team aboard her 25-foot rigid inflatable boat for the adventurous journey to find RJ36.

Currently, the way we track matriarchal lineage of monk seals is by visual observations of mothers and pups. As such, our goal is always to tag pups within days of their weaning. Once weaners start exploring other parts of the island and mixing with other monk seals, we cannot be sure of their lineage. Thus, Captain Tara has likely helped us know with surety the matriarchal lines of six or eight monk seals over the years. That’s a great effort.

Mahalo Kauai Sea Rider Adventures!

RJ36 (5) 7.19.17-2

Photo credit: V. Bloy

RJ36 (3) 7.9.17-2

Photo credit: V. Bloy

RJ36 tags 7.19.17-2

Photo credit: V. Bloy

Kauai Sea Riders Crew-2

Photo credit: V. Bloy

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(P)update #7

Now, that PK1 is exploring the world on his own, our team was able to catch him and attach a pair of “temple” tags to his hind flippers. This will allow us to track him throughout his life. The color of the tag indicates where the animal was born. Red is used for all Main Hawaiian Island pups. The first letter indicates the year it was born. In this case, “J” for 2017. The two numbers that follow the letter are unique for each individual animal. Two tags are attached, one in the left flipper and the other in the right flipper, in case one breaks. And because the way the tags are numbered when they’re made, each seal gets an even and an odd number. However, we mainly refer to them by the even number.

Thus, from now on, PK1 will be referred to at RJ22.

At the same time that RJ22 was flipper tagged, measurements of length and axillary girth were taken, a tissue sample collected, and a micro-chip pit tag (much like the kind used with dogs and cats) was inserted. All this gets done in about five minutes. RJ22 reacted calmly throughout the entire effort. So much so that when the team finished, he rested calmly for about 10 minutes before heading to the water for a swim.

Here’s RJ22 with his new tags.

Monk Seal Pup RJ22-4Monk Seal Pup RJ22-6Monk Seal Pup RJ22-2Monk Seal Pup RJ22-5

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