RK30 - Hawaiian monk seal with multiple scars.

One of the most remarkable and identifiable Hawaiian monk seals was none other than a female known as RK30. RK30 was first identified by the Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center as an adult in 2004/5. She was last seen in November 2019 after giving birth that summer and never recovering her body condition. She was estimated to be, at least, 20 years old. In those 20 years, she collected quite a few scars and stories. She possessed a distinct personality and pupped 11 times. 

In January 2018, this profile of RK30 was published. 

Here is a recap of her progeny and their status:

2006: RO26, female, born at remote beach along Napali Coast. Was sighted frequently on north shore for a year. Then, disappeared.

2008:  RW06, female, born at remote beach on the south shore. Seen frequently at Poipu On March 13, 2016, she spent the night at Poipu and aborted a fetus. The placenta was tested for infectious disease agents. She stayed at Poipu 3 days, and was eventually diagnosed with placentitis that resolved on its own. RW06 was regularly reported on the south side in 2017, but never seen again after Nov. 2017.

2009:  Newborn pup born at remote beach on along Napali Coast. Tour boat operators witnessed pup struggling in rough onshore break. RK30 tried multiple times to lead and call pup back to beach. She succeeded once, but pup never made it back to the beach.

2010: Unknown pup born at remote beach along Napali Coast in late summer. By the time RK30 weaned pup, winter waves made it too unsafe for a crew to journey out to tag pup/weaner. Could be pup/weaner was tagged as a juvenile.

2011: RK56, male, born at a remote beach along Napali. Found dead October 2012 at Mahaulepu with slide bait hook and line ingested.

2012:  RL24, male, born on a remote beach on the north shore. Disappeared.

2014:  RF30, female, born on a remote beach on the north shore. Seen infrequently on the east shore.

2016:  RH38, female, born at a remote beach along Napali the day after RK30 was attacked by man at Salt Ponds. In 2017, RH38 was sent to Ke Kai Ola (Monk Seal Hospital) for thin body condition/parasite load. In 2019, she was admitted back to Ke Kai Ola for a systemic infection, unknown trauma to rear end, and emaciation.

2017:  RJ36, male, born at a remote beach along Napali. In 2020, ingested fish hook and died.

2018:  RKA2, female, born at a remote beach on north shore. Seen frequently along the east shore.

2019: RL30, female, born at a remote beach along Napali. Last sighted October 2022. 

RK30 gave birth to mostly female pups. Sadly, six, possibly seven of her 11 progeny are dead.  However, the good news is her remaining four are healthy adult females entering their reproductive years.

Earlier this year, Dr. Mimi Olry was interviewed for this NOAA podcast about RK30 and other Kauai matriarchs here.

It’s that time of year. Winter’s surf season on the north shore is winding down. The spring equinox is near. New leaf growth on mango trees are sprouting hope–and whetting appetites. And some really big Hawaiian monk seals are hauling their head bodies out of the buoyant sea and onto Kauai’s beaches. In other words, it’s near pupping season.

While Hawaiian monks seal will give birth any month of the year, the tendency is spring and summer. The gestation period is 10 to 11 months. Typically, a female Hawaiian monk seal only carries one pup at a time, but on the very rare occasion, twins have been recorded. A breeding female can give birth year after year after year, but it’s common for her to take off a year every now and then, too. This year, the estimated due dates of four regular “puppers” start in June.

RH58Kauai / Oahu7/25

Hawaiian monk seals have a tendency to give birth at their own natal birth site. So, often, we see pregnant monk seals on Kauai who get bigger and bigger and bigger, only to disappear for six or eight weeks, re-appearing looking very skinny and/or having recently molted. The deduction is that these are females who were born at Niihau and return there to give birth, much as RH58, also known as “Rocky” spends her adult days around Oahu and usually–but not always–returns to Kauai to give birth.

In fact, here are a few females who may be adding to the Hawaiian monk seal population–mysterious as they are–without their actual birthing events being confirmed: RK90, R371, R1KY, R337, and R1KM.

Here are recent photos of a very pregnant-looking R1KM. Will she pup on Kauai? Or elsewhere?

[Photo credit: J. Honnert.]

If you see any Hawaiian monk seal anywhere on Kauai, please photograph them (from a distance and without disturbing them) and forward photos to kauaiseals@gmail.com.

Monthly Update: The Kauai team logged 249 seal sightings this month (252 in Jan, 239 in Dec, 243 in Nov, 277 in Oct, 400 in Sept). This included 37 individually identified seals.


·       Juvenile male R616 observed with severe laceration across base of muzzle. Closely assessed by staff, wounds exactly match previous seals injuries caused by hagfish trap cones. Seal monitored without intervention. Seal fully healed in 3 weeks. 

·       As many as 8 monk seals have been hauling out/socializing/fighting at Poipu Beach Park most days, and most of the seals are adult males. This is typical spring behavior at Poipu and continues to be a challenge for the volunteer team to manage.

·       AM RN30 chased off Mahaulepu Beach by an off-leash dog. No contact made. This beach continues to be a problem with off-leash dogs.

Molting: 4 seals molted this past month.

Bleach Marking: 5 seals were bleach marked.


·       Trained 3 new volunteers with Hui.

Research/Support of PIFSC

·       Logged all turtle tagging with MTBAP Data Form

·       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.

Remember R616? The untagged juvenile male Hawaiian monk seal that hauled out one day with a gnarly wound to his face? Well, his healing process has been remarkable, as reports from dedicated volunteers and their photos illustrate.

R616 is most likely a Niihau seal, he was first reported as a very small clean juvenile male on 9/16/2021at Nukolii where he was observed off and on for several months. Later, he was observed with a partial cookie cutter shark scar on the right chin area and given the identification of “temp 616.” After a year, he was given a permanent ID number of R616. 

R616 likes to cruise the east side and molted in September 2022. He has become more robust as he grows into a healthy two-year-old, going on three.  

While the cause of the laceration across his muzzle is unknown, it was quite likely a sharp object encountered while exploring the ocean. The wound was open and clean, and the saltwater allowed continued flushing of the wound, keeping it clean. Within three days, there was evidence of healthy granulation tissue filling in the wound and, eventually, closing it. A week later the skin has started to heal over the deeper tissues and fill in the deficit tissues.  Eventually, he will have a line scar that will also identify him until he can be tagged.

Here’s a photographic history of his healing.

R616: Three days after reported wound laceration.
R616: Two weeks post-report of laceration.
R616: Three week post-report of laceration.

More turtles on Kauai and across the main Hawaiian Islands are being tagged to track their movements for possible nesting and basking changes and NOAA reseachers are turning to citizen scientists for help.

Earlier this month, NOAA introduced a new way of reporting re-sightings of honu with motos (identifications made with non-toxic paint) that utilizes an online form (found here) for data collection.

The new survey format is supposed to make collecting data easier for citizen scientists and provide a more complete and accurate dataset of re-sightings. For example, within the survey, there is a map where the user drops a pin of their sighting, which then records the GPS coordinates of the sighting. Getting accurate coordinates of sightings provides a clearer picture of foraging grounds, population dispersal, as well as where our rehab honu are spending their time post-rehab. 

 The form includes fields for:

  • Date/time
  • Honu ID
  • Island
  • Area/Location
  • Behavior
  • Photos
  • Comments

On the back end, a map of all sightings is automatically generated along with a spreadsheet of all the sighting information, reducing time manually entering data and making analysis easier. 

The Honu Count began in 2017 as a way to get the community involved in reporting returning Lalo (French Frigate Shoals) honu around the main Hawaiian islands. The citizen science project started with a hotline, then moved to the Respect Wildlife email, and is now evolving to an online survey generated through ArcGIS Survey123. The survey can be used from smartphones, tablets, and computers through any of the major browsers (Google, Firefox, Safari, etc.). More information can be found at this website

The flyer below has a QR code that also links directly to the survey. 

The Kauai team logged 252 seal sightings this month (239 in Dec, 243 in Nov, 277 in Oct, 400 in Sept, 320 in Aug). This included 34 individually identified seals.


·       Juvenile female RM28 reported logging in shallow water along Aliomanu Road South, Anahola bay. Underwater GoPro video revealed major wounds on neck, head, and flippers that were likely caused by a large shark and were life threatening. A Kauai team herded the seal into shallow water and into a transport cage for captive care. Staff administered antibiotics, anti-inflammatory and pain meds, and subcutaneous fluids while holding overnight until USCG transport to KKO was possible. The seal died after 5 days of care due to the severity of the injuries.

·       Flipper tagged a new Niihau juvenile female as R3CP.

·       As many as 8 monk seals have been hauling out/socializing/fighting at Poipu Beach Park most days, and most of the seals are adult males. This is typical spring behavior at Poipu and continues to be a challenge for the volunteer team to manage.

·       Adult male RK58, who was rehabbed at KKO for dog bite injuries in 2021, was harassed and chased off Poipu beach by an off-leash dog. No contact was made and the seal left quickly. Volunteers talked to the owner and explained leash laws.


·       R2XW dehooked previous month has fully recovered.

The Kauai team logged 239 seal sightings this month (243 in Nov, 277 in Oct, 400 in Sept, 320 in Aug, 311 in July). This included 31 individually identified seals.


·       Juvenile female R2XW was found hooked with ulua gear and trailing pigtail swivel/mono leader. Leader was trimmed, however 3 weeks later the hook rotated into mouth and around mandible. The seal was captured at Glass Beach and held overnight at the DLNR baseyard until Gregg Levine and Claudia Cedillo arrived the following morning to assist with sedation and successful hook removal. The seal was released at Glass Beach shortly after dehooking and has been resighted in good health several times since.


·       Juvenile RP32 has completed his molt and recovered body condition. We had been monitoring his thin body condition for several months.

Molting: 5 seals molted this past month.

Bleach Marking: 4 seals were bleach marked.


Meet the juvenile, male Hawaiian monk seal known, scientifically, as R616. This is his first appearance on these pages—and it’s for an unusual injury. As these photos illustrate, R616 ran into trouble somewhere. It’s hard to say what happened. His wound doesn’t present as a typical shark, entanglement or, even, propeller wound. Perhaps it was something he encountered underwater. Whatever it was, it was likely pretty sharp. After examination, it was decided to let the saltwater continue to flush the wound and monitor R616’s healing, providing treatment, if necessary. Already, there’s evidence of healing going on. Here’s where volunteers and the public can help: If you come across R616 at the beach, use binoculars to check on his healing and report his location by calling 888-256-9840. If you have a telephoto lens and can take photos without disturbing him, please send those photos to kauaiseals@gmail.com.

The Marine Mammal Center and The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced last week that three-year-old female RM28 passed away at Ke Kai Ola, the “Monk Seal Hospital,” in Kailua-Kona. They suspect she died from injuries due to severe shark bite trauma.

“Our team is deeply saddened to report the loss of RM28, especially knowing that this three-year-old seal could have played an important role to further boost the population of this endangered species,” said Dr. Sophie Whoriskey, the Hawaiian Monk Seal Conservation Veterinarian at Ke Kai Ola, in a statement.

RM28 was a well-known seal around Kauai. Born to RK28 in 2020, last year, RM28 ranked tenth on the list of most reported seals, indicating she liked to haul out at beaches where she was seen–and reported–by beach-goers. The year before, in 2021, she ranked fourth. In her short life, she made news on these pages–for hauling out in the keiki pool in Poipu, triggering her displacement on several occasions. And for an unusual fishing entanglement in June of last year. She hadn’t ingested a fish hook. Nor lodged the hook in her jaw. No, she’d somehow gotten the hook embedded into the external side of her neck. The response team was easily able to free her from the hook. In 2021, when RM28 was eight months old, she was reported with a round chunk of flesh missing above her left fore flipper. The wound was what remained after a cookiecutter shark latched onto her, swiveled, and took off with a plug of her flesh. That wound quickly healed. Unlike, sadly, those from another shark earlier this year.

The statement on RM28’s death from the Marine Mammal Center went on to report:

During the seal’s initial critical care period, Center experts stabilized the animal and began treating RM28 for extensive and severe wounds consistent with shark bite trauma. During the admission exam, the Center confirmed NOAA’s initial assessment and diagnosed the patient with severe shark bite trauma. The Center’s experts noted the animal was in poor body condition, administered antibiotics and pain medication, and also took a series of blood samples and swabs for further analysis. Despite the team’s best efforts, RM28 died in treatment on January 16.

A necropsy, or animal autopsy, was performed the next day to determine the cause of death. After a thorough necropsy exam, Center experts suspect that RM28 likely died directly from the severe trauma or due to complications associated with the trauma. The Center’s team is awaiting bloodwork diagnostics to determine whether the seal also had any underlying health complications. No other immediate findings of significance aside from the trauma and poor state of condition were found during the necropsy exam.

After displaying lethargic behavior, RM28 was rescued in a shallow cove off the Kauaʻi coast on January 11 by NOAA’s trained experts with assistance from the Hawaiʻi Department of Land and Natural Resources’ (DLNR) Division of Aquatic Resources. NOAA received reports of RM28 appearing to be in poor condition the previous day. The animal was immediately brought to a DLNR facility on Kauaʻi for initial assessment and triage care. NOAA experts diagnosed the seal with severe wounds consistent with shark bite trauma and noted the animal was in poor condition.

RM28 was airlifted and transferred into the Center’s care at Ke Kai Ola via the U.S. Coast Guard for further rehabilitation on January 12. This action was taken after NOAA experts determined the animal needed long-term rehabilitative care and had stabilized enough for transport.

“Thanks to the numerous reports from concerned residents about this seal’s injuries, we were able to respond quickly and determine that RM28 needed veterinary care. She was a well-known seal on the beaches of Kauaʻi, and we are saddened by this loss.” said Jamie Thomton, NOAA Fisheries’ Kauaʻi Response Coordinator.

Although shark attacks are not uncommon, negative human interaction, fisheries interaction via hooking and entanglements, and diseases like toxoplasmosis are the main threats the endangered Hawaiian monk seal population faces on the main Hawaiian Islands.

As the only partner organization permitted by NOAA to treat and rehabilitate Hawaiian monk seals, The Marine Mammal Center is proud that nearly 30 percent of monk seals that are alive today are due to conservation efforts led by NOAA and partners like the Center.

Since 2014, the Center has rehabilitated and released 37 monk seals, most of which have been rescued from and returned to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands as part of the Center’s partnership with NOAA Fisheries, utilizing resources in the area to identify seals in need, rescue and rehabilitate them, and give them a second chance at life.

Here’s another recap for 2021. This list identifies the top ten Hawaiian monk seals “reported” on Kauai during 2022. “Reported” seals are those that were called in—and identified—to the Hawaiian Monk Seal Conservation Hui hotline. (See a monk seal on the beach? Report it to 808-651-7668.)

However, what’s not included in this list are mom/pup reports. Because “pup watches” by dedicated volunteers tend to elevate pup “reported” numbers and because moms spend the first four to six weeks of their pups’ lives right by their sides, the reports of the mom/pup days are not included.

Keep in mind, other 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. Molting monk seals get reported more often, too. As well, young monk seals are often sighted and reported more, too, because they tend to hang around and make themselves noticed;-) Lastly, volunteers impact this number, too. Those dedicated volunteers who regularly scout certain beaches for monk seals (thank you very much) will also help inflate a certain seal’s confirmed reports.

Take a look at the Top Ten list for 2022:

  1. RF28: 108 confirmed sightings. Born in 2014 to R028 (who died of toxo after valiant try by veterinarians to treat and save her). Bottom lip scar left side. Most telling ID: Natural bleach mark over left shoulder. left tag gone. Bottom right tag broken.
  2. RK58: 104 confirmed sightings. Born on 7/16 in 2018 to RH58. Pup switch resulted in abandonment at 19 days age. Raised at Ke Kai Ola. Released from captivity on 2/11/2019. Returned to Ke Kai Ola for rehab 2/16/21 due to infected dog bites.
  3. RG58: 97 confirmed sightings. Born 2015 to RH58. Natural bleach above tail, line scar left rear. One of our biggest males.
  4. TempV11: 74 confirmed sightings. Subadult male/ bleached marked Feb. 2022 because too few scars to ID. Became a regular at Poipu in spring 2022. Pit scar mid back, scar left neck.
  5. R371: 70 confirmed sightings. Niihau female w/pup 2017.  Large shark bite right rump and in front right fore flipper, natural bleach mark on top of head, pit scar base of left fore flipper, hook scar left corner of mouth, cookie cutter right shoulder, crescent flap scar belly. Likes to hang out at Mahaulepu and Shipwrecks.
  6. RM36: 68 confirmed sightings. Nice big sub-abult female. Tagged 4/21/2021. Pup of RB00; born 3/15/2020. Cookie cutter scar on right shoulder.
  7. R2XW: 67 confirmed sightings. Very small juvenile female from Niihau. Tagged 4/5/2021 at Glass Beach Eleele. 88 cm auxiliary girth. 
  8. RQ52: 56 confirmed sightings. Born to R400 at Polihale on 6/25/2022. Nursed for 38 days. Translocated to safer location after weaning. Eventually, she moved back to the west side.
  9. R7AA: 54 confirmed sightings. New small Niihau female seal to Kauai 6/2017. Monitored for back abscess, caught and treated and tagged 9/2017. Over the years she has demonstrated unique behavior when molting—moves high up the beach at night and onto resort furniture, parking lots and streets, so must be closely monitored.
  10. RM28: 51 confirmed sightings. Born to RK28 in 2020. De-hooked in June 2022. Also involved in displacements at Poipu keiki pool.