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Posts Tagged ‘Kauai’

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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RH92 (formerly known as PK2) has been busy. She now has a bleach mark of V92 that will make identifying her from a distance much easier. She’s also beginning to travel up and down the coast, going several miles one direction and equally far in the other direction. This makes her much harder for our volunteers to find! She’s been observed flipping rocks and checking things out just like a wild seal should. She’s also been observed with sea cucumber slime on her face. Not something that likely will continue as she discovers more deletable tidbits from the sea!

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Photo credit: G. Langley

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Photo credit: G. Langley

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Photo credit: G. Langley

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Photo credit: G. Langley

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Photo credit: G. Langley

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Photo credit: G. Langley

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Photo credit: G. Langley

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On day two of PK2’s life, the busy young seal was observed galumphing around its mother and nursing seven times throughout the day. Two males cruised by the pupping site but did not disturb mother (RK22) and pup.

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Photo credit: G. Langley.

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Photo credit: G. Langley.

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On Monday, May 23, 2016, the monk seal known as RK22 arrived at the beach and hauled her heavy body out of the surf. Less than two hours later, she gave birth to a healthy pup, known for now as PK2.

Here’s an article in The Garden Island about the pup’s birth, witnessed by our volunteer Gary Langley.

Keep checking back here as we post regular updates on this pup’s first few weeks of life.

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The moment of birth. Photo credit: G. Langley.

 

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Day one. Photo credit G. Langley.

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Pup-date! As you know from previous postings, four Hawaiian monk seal pups were born on Kauai in 2015. Here is a synopsis of where they are today and how they are doing.

hawaiian monk seal pup on kauai

Photo credit: G. Langley

The oldest pup, RG13, is now 7 months old and has become a somewhat elusive north shore seal with sightings ranging from Papa’a to Ha’ena. A snorkeler saw her underwater at Tunnels last month looking healthy, normal, and most importantly behaving like a wild seal that made no attempt to interact with the swimmer (and vice versa!).

Entangled seal

The next pup, RG22, is now 6 months old and has moved to the south shore where he was sighted last month wearing (entangled) someone’s swim goggles! They fell off within a couple of days and caused no harm. Since then he has been sighted routinely hauling-out along the rocks in the Makahuena Point area.

Photo credit: J. Thomton

Photo credit: J. Thomton

The third pup, RG28, has not been sighted for several months, however this is not uncommon as these young seals often tuck into quiet rocky locations and are not sighted very often. For example, another young Kauai seal, RN30, was born in 2013 and completely fell off our radar for 16 months (between May 8, 2014 until September 27, 2015) but has now been sighted weekly looking extremely healthy. We hope the same is true for RG28.

hawaiian monk seal pup on kauai

Photo credit: G. Langley

The youngest pup, RG58, is still only 4 months old and is sticking closely to his birth beach on the north shore. He was a really big pup measuring almost as big around as he is was long, like a beach ball with flippers. This thick layer of blubber gives a naive pup a great energetic advantage while learning to forage and fend for itself during the critical time after weaning from their moms. As you can see from this recent photo, he continues to maintain a healthy body condition. You know what they say about marine mammals…blubber is beautiful!

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We are proud to announce that we have another pup. Fifteen-year-old RH58 arrived from Oahu on Sunday, July 12th. In the midst of stormy weather, on Monday morning, she was found concealed in naupaka bushes with a nice healthy pup–that has since been confirmed male. This is RH58’s ninth pup born on Kauai since 2006. While she has spent her adult life foraging the waters around and hauling out on the beaches of Oahu, like many monk seals, RH58 returns to her own natal beach to birth, as well.

Hawaiian monk seal

Photo credit: Rogers

Our third pup born to RO28 has weaned, and his mother returned to Oahu a few days later, accompanied by an untagged male seal, Temp 319. This third weaned pup is tagged G28/G29 and goes by the ID name of RG28. When hauled out, he likes to hang out in rocks. These weaned pups seek rocks and objects to nestle against, possibly missing mom, and are vulnerable to people and loose dogs. They are very naive and curious, as all young are when they are learning about their environment and how to feed and socialize. Unfortunately their “cuteness” gets them in trouble when people approach them, try to pet or swim with them, and–most dangerous for taming a wild animal–try to feed them.

hawaiian monk seal, pup, pk3, RG28

Photo credit: Bloy

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hawaiian monk seal mom and pup

Photo credit: Rogers

One. On tax day, April 15, 2015, we welcomed our first Kauai pup of the year when RK13 gave birth to a big, healthy female. Volunteer Gary Langley reported the pup nursed several times during her first morning of life, and while still a few hours old, she took her first swim. All during PK1’s first week of life, the pair was visited by several males RK05, RV18 and a new-to-us monk seal, Temp 310, who chased all others the away. RK13 is an older, productive female that has only pupped once on Kauai. She usually pups on Ni’ihau.

hawaiian monk seal and pup swimming

Photo credit: Rogers

Two. On May 15, 2015, we welcomed PK2 to Kauai, born to RK22, making this her fifth pup in five years. She’s sure turned into a good mother after a rough start in which she abandoned two pups two years in a row. But she can be a little wary, and as with all mothers in the animal kingdom, can be quite protective of her offspring. A few wildlife viewing measures are always important to keep in mind when near RK22 (and any other monk seals): Give them plenty of space; stay out of their line of sight; position yourself downwind; and camouflage yourself by staying low to the ground in and amongst bushes when possible. The goal is to watch without disturbing.

hawaiian monk seal mom and pup

Photo credit: Rogers

Three. On May 26, 2015, we welcomed PK3 to Kauai, born to RO28 who arrived from Oahu only days before. This young mother was born on Kauai but likes to spend her adult days on Oahu–until it’s time to pup. Then, she returns to her natal beach. Like RK22, this mother is very protective and has been aggressive towards people approaching her on the beach or in the water, so we request people give her a wide berth. Amazingly, volunteer Julie Honnert was on the beach with her video camera running when the big event happened. Check out this amazing video!

So, three, so far. And we expect more. Stay tuned. And, as always, if you’d like to volunteer with the Hawaiian Monk Seal Conservation Hui on Kauai, please email kauaiseals@gmail.com. And if you run across any seals on the beach, please take a quick health assessment and report any sightings to the hotline–808-651-7668.

 

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