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Posts Tagged ‘#MonkSealMonday’

As we’ve reported, earlier this year, one of Kauai’s regular-pupping moms (RH58) gave birth on Oahu, where she has spent most of her adult life. She pupped on busy Waikiki Beach. With the thousands of people who flock to Waikiki, it was a challenging time for, among others, NOAA’S marine mammal response team, lifeguards on the beach, DLNR’s DOCARE officials, and the many volunteers of the Hawaii Marine Animal Response team. They had to worry about the safety of mom and pup as well as the numerous swimmers, sunbathers, surfers, paddlers, and throngs of people who came out to see the newest member of the Hawaiian monk seal species. Plus, the seals themselves threw in a few of their own unique challenges. In the early days after pupping, RH58 chased off another adult seal or two in shallow water and on the beach. On two occasions, the pup, who came to be known as Kaimana after the beach on which she was born, slipped between the deteriorating walls of and inside the Natatorium. (Her real-time retrieval by the Hawaiian Monk Seal Science Program was recorded by Civil Beat.) She and her mom also scattered beachgoers when hauling out–with pup mouthing the left-behind beach gear–imagine a child’s slipper–of those who’d hastily departed to give the seals room.

Through it all, neither seal nor human was hurt. Thankfully.

The closest thing on Kauai to that kind of scene just might be Poipu Beach. Of late, we’ve had multiple seals–sometimes four and five–hauling out at the same time on this busy beach–resting, playing, and socializing. Frequently one seal will harass several others, forcing them back into the water for a play session that moves from the water aerobics class, to the snorkel area, and then into the keiki pool. These socializing sessions have occurred several times in the course of a single day.

It can be a stressful time for all involved–with vocalizing and flippers, sand, and water flying.

Volunteers have been trained to use the opportunity of people entering and exiting the water to educate them on the presence of the seals and the appropriate response to any interactions between human and seal that may occur. However, volunteers have been trained not to try and interact with people while they are in the water, so as not to create a panic.

The guidance for the public if approached by a monk seal in the water is to either stay motionless and let the seals swim by or to slowly swim away. But to never try to touch or follow a seal.

Here’s a very short clip that shows how close the encounters can be and in shallow water, at that.

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