KAILUA-KONA — A Hawaiian monk seal pup recently rescued on Molokai is now in stable condition at Ke Kai Ola, The Marine Mammal Center’s hospital and visitor center in Kailua-Kona.
The pup, named Sole, prematurely weaned from its mother earlier in July and his small size and thin body condition quickly became a concern for wildlife experts. Veterinarians from The Marine Mammal Center, with the support of the U.S. Coast Guard, the National Park Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, rescued the pup late last week and transferred it to the Hawaii Island hospital for care.
Born on June 20, this male pup switched to nursing from another monk seal mother who had been with her female pup since May 30, an event that has been observed occasionally in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands by NOAA researchers. Unfortunately, the male pup’s nursing time was shortened, resulting in minimal reserves and a lower body weight. It was clear that intervention was critical to ensure the pup’s survival.
The Coast Guard provided a helicopter flight from Honolulu to Kalaupapa National Historical Park, and then on to Kailua-Kona to safely transport the seal to rehabilitation. Simeone accompanied the seal on the transport and is providing supportive care at the hospital with the assistance of staff and volunteers.
During his initial exam, Simeone noted that the pup, named Sole, was malnourished but otherwise stable. He is currently receiving nutrition in the form of a blended fish mash, and as he grows stronger will transition to eating whole fish.
It is rare to rescue a monk seal from the main Hawaiian Islands, and this young pup is only the second pup from the main islands to be rehabilitated by the center. The center has rehabilitated 23 monk seals since opening Ke Kai Ola in 2014, the majority of which were rescued from the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.
Volunteers are needed at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority-based hospital and visitor center in a variety of roles, including animal care, education and response. Interested individuals should visit www.marinemammalcenter.org/KKO-volunteer to learn more.