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Another pup has graduated to “weaner-hood” and received her (yes, female) official flipper tags. Meet RL58. Her mom, the renowned RH58 (Rocky), nursed PK5 for 45 days.

At tagging, RL58 measured 118 cm long and 96 cm around (girth). She’s reportedly doing well, even holding her own with RN44 (male) who has been spotted wrestling and swimming with her. A feisty female is good;-)

Here are some photos of her post-tagging.

(PC: M. Olry)

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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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In March, after RH38 seemingly shrank to nothing more than a sad bag of bones, she was scooped up and flown to Ke Kai Ola on Hawaii Island. There, after days turned into weeks and a few tests turned into dozens, she was finally rolled into another hospital–the North Hawaii Community Hospital–for a full-body CT scan. It was the first CT scan performed on a wild Hawaiian monk seal. It was then veterinarians were finally able to turn this touch-and-go patient’s health around, and a couple weeks ago, she became the 28th patient of the monk seal hospital to be admitted and returned to the wild. (See more here.)

These are photos of RH38 on the day she was admitted to Ke Kai Ola.

When the three-and-a-half-year-old RH38 was released back on a remote Kauai beach, she looked like a completely different seal. She’d undergone a molt while she spent four-and-a-half months in rehabilitative care at Ke Kai Ola, so her coat looked like she’d taken a side visit to a monk seal spa while she was away from Kauai. She also gained weight. Lots of weight. She was released tipping the scales close to three times what she weighed when she was admitted to Ke Kai Ola.

Here’s a slide show of RH38 making her way to the water on the day of her release. Note her excellent body condition. You wouldn’t know she was the same seal–except her flipper tags prove it.

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Since her release, RH38 has been exploring some of her favorite haunts. It’s as if she’d never left. Reports of her whereabouts have come in from the public, including one of some beachgoers approaching a little too close for RH38’s liking. Any time a wild animal spends time in rehab, one concern is whether she’ll show interest in humans upon her release. In RH38’s case, she hasn’t. And that’s a good thing. Maybe she got poked and prodded a little too much at Ke Kai Ola. But this is also a good reminder to encourage people to give monk seals–and all wild animals–plenty of space. When monk seals haul out on the beach, it’s for much needed rest, so when they return to the sea, they’re sharp and alert.

There’s another way biologists track RH38’s travels, and that’s by the satellite tag attached to her back, which is standard for monk seals released after care. (It’ll stay on until she next molts, if it doesn’t fall off sooner.) This allows biologists and veterinarians to keep a remote eye on her and evaluate her behavior. Here is a sample track of RH38’s recent whereabouts.

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If you’re wondering about those red lines seemingly on land, RH38 has not evolved into a terrestrial seal. Those are poor quality fixes, typical of satellite tags with wide accuracy ranges. But you get the basic idea. The good news is RH38 has been ranging up and down the coastline in a way consistent with wild Hawaiian monk seals.

Lastly, here’s a video of her release and immediate beeline for the water.

 

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Here are a few recent photos of RL52. You may recall he was born earlier this year to first-time mom RK52. In the two-and-a-half months since he weaned, he’s thinned out, as expected; however, he’s still looking good. He’s been exploring more of the North Shore but can still often be found at his natal beach.

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PC: J. Thomton

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PC: J. Thomton

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PC: J. Thomton

The other seal in the photo below is R1NS, who is looking rather plump. It’s suspected she’s only three or four years old, but that’s an estimate, since she was first tagged as a young seal in the winter of 2017. The youngest confirmed age of a monk seal to give birth is four. (That was RI15 on Molokai.) So, either R1NS is pregnant, or she’s sleeping on a rock in such a way to make us think she looks like she’s pregnant!

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PC: J. Thomton

 

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Field Report: June

The Kauai team logged 179 seal sightings this month (262 in May, 348 in April, 350 in March, 303 in Feb). This included 32 individually identified seals.

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

New:

  • Two male seals, RG22 and R3CX. were displaced from Poipu. (This is always done by trained personnel.)
  • Two adult seals, male RN02 and female R1KY were displaced off a beach road at the end of the Burns Field runway at Salt Pond Beach Park. Lifeguards assisted by closing the road until displacement occurred. (Again, this is only conducted with prior approval and by trained personnel.)

Updates:

  • Discussions and plans were set in place this month for the return and release of RH38 in July.
  • 2019 pups RL08 and RL52 continue to thrive at various north shore beaches.
  • Displacements: 6 displacements occurred this month. Two of these displacements were from the keiki pool, subadult male R3CX, which was his 4thdisplacement, and subadult female R7AA, which was her second displacement.
  • Molting: no seals were observed molting this month.
  • Vaccinations: Pup RL52 was given a booster vaccination this month.

Research/Support of Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center (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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