A Hawaiian monk seal pupped in late April on West Hawaii’s shores is doing well, experts say.
The seal, which has been identified as male, is continuing to hone his skills under the watchful eye of his mother, R405, according to officials with The Marine Mammal Center’s Ke Kai Ola Hawaiian Monk Seal Hospital in Kailua-Kona. His energy and vocalization patterns are strong.
“The team notes the pair are vocal with one another and R405 is very attentive to her pup, a significant development as this is her first confirmed pup,” said the center’s Animal Care Manager Megan McGinnis. “R405 and her pup swim frequently together in the shallows, another positive sign for the nearly four-week-old animal.”
A health exam will be performed on the young seal once weaning has been confirmed. Hawaiian monk seal pups typically wean at around five to seven weeks of age.
The seal’s birth was first documented in late April by trained responders from monk seal hospital. West Hawaii Today is not disclosing the exact location to protect the critically endangered mammals during this critical period.
R405, a “transient” seal with a fairly unknown history, was first spotted in March 2019 and has been seen since occasionally frequenting the Big Island.
The youngster is among nine pups born in the main Hawaiian Islands so far this year, according NOAA’s Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program. That includes four on Oahu, two on Molokai, and one each on Kauai and the Big Island.
The 2020 pupping season comes on the heels of a recording-breaking 2019 when 48 Hawaiian monk seal pups were born in the main Hawaiian Islands during the spring and summer, including one on the Big Island, according to the program’s update released in March.
An estimated 1,400 monk seals inhabit the main and Northwestern Hawaiian islands, according to NOAA. Approximately 300 of those seals cruise the waters and haul up on beaches in the main Hawaiian Islands.
The center said the public can play an important role in the conservation of the endangered species by keeping a few marine wildlife viewing tips in mind when visiting local beaches and wildlife preserves by keeping a safe distance from seals, using the zoom function on cameras and reporting sightings.
A good “rule of thumb” to know if you’re too close to a monk seal is to hold up your thumb perpendicular to the animal, and if you can see any of the seal, you are too close.
To report a sighting, call or text The Marine Mammal Center’s Hawaii Island response team at its 24-hour hotline at (808) 987-0765. To report wildlife harassment, call NOAA Fisheries’ Enforcement Hotline at (800) 853-1964.