HONOLULU — A 6-week-old Hawaiian monk seal pup born on a Waikiki beach has been weaned and is now on his own.
The seal’s mother, designated RK96 by scientists but also known as Kaiwi, swam away Tuesday morning and left the pup behind, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported.
The adult seal’s abrupt departure was natural and expected weaning behavior by a monk seal mother, said Angela Amlin, Hawaiian monk seal recovery coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
It’s also necessary for the survival of monk seal mothers, who, because they don’t forage while nursing, lose up to a third of their body weight.
“And Loli’i’s ready, he’s so nice and fat,” Amlin said, referring to the pup by his name.
Monk seal mothers usually wean their pups when they’re between 5 to 7 weeks old. In the past, Kaiwi has weaned her pups when they were about 6 weeks old, Amlin said.
Scientists plan to wait until it they’re certain Kaiwi won’t be coming back, and then move Loli’i to a safe, remote location far from people.
If young pups get accustomed to attention from humans early on, they will seek people out. This can be dangerous as the pups get bigger.