KAILUA-KONA — Four endangered Hawaiian monk seals rescued from the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands are receiving care at Ke Kai Ola in Kailua-Kona.
The rescue, a partnership between The Marine Mammal Center’s Ke Kai Ola Hawaiian Monk Seal Hospital and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and other partner agencies, demonstrates the urgent need to maintain regulatory protections for threatened and endangered species, the center said Thursday.
“This is a critical time for the endangered Hawaiian monk seal. These four female pups were all underweight and unlikely to survive the winter without intervention,” said Dr. Cara Field, staff veterinarian at The Marine Mammal Center, who helped oversee their rescue and initial care. “Of the approximately 1,400 monk seals researchers estimate remain in the wild, nearly 30 percent are alive today as a result of these types of conservation efforts. Continued funding and support for this work is so important.”
All four of the pups were weaned too young, leaving them too weak to catch fish on their own. Researchers estimated they had less than 1% chance of survival on their own, the center said. Two of the seals were rescued from Pearl and Hermes Atoll and are identified as DL32 and DL36. The other two seals, identified as LL34 and LL00, were rescued from Lisianski Island.
All four were evaluated after weaning during the spring but were not candidates for rescue at that time. This summer, they were rescued and transported via the NOAA Research Vessel Oscar Elton Sette upon which scientists performed physical exams and provided initial treatment. After arriving in Honolulu they were shuttled to Ke Kai Ola via U.S. Coast Guard aircraft.
“The seals have been quite vocal and feisty from the start, which is a very encouraging sign,” said Megan McGinnis, animal care manager at Ke Kai Ola.
McGinnis said the center’s team is carefully monitoring the seals. Each is currently being tube-fed a “fish-mash smoothie” three times a day. Oral multivitamins and electrolytes are added to boost hydration.
In other monk seal-related news, researchers have spotted former patient RH38 looking healthy after having been released back to the wild on Kauai this summer. RH38 underwent two rehabilitation stints at Ke Kai Ola.
During the seal’s second rehabilitation, RH38 was successfully treated for numerous serious medical ailments including trauma, pneumonia, an eye injury and multiple organ infections.
Since 2014, the Center has rehabilitated and released 28 monk seals.
The public should keep a safe distance from monk seals and report sightings on Hawaii Island to the center’s response team at the 24-hour hotline (808) 987-0765.