Just a few days old and with no mother in sight, KP2, later renamed Hō’ailona, was rescued from a beach on the island of Kauai in 2008. This rare Hawaiian monk seal became the unofficial mascot for the mission to save his endangered species, of which only 1,100 seals currently remain. The Hawaiian monk seal is declining at a rate of 4% per year and without intervention, they will be gone from the planet within our lifetime.
Part of what makes Hō’ailona’s story so unique is the statistic that only one in five monk seal pups survives to adulthood. That is why rescue and care of injured or orphaned monk seals is essential. After rehabilitation, Hō’ailona was released on the island of Moloka’i. However, it soon became clear that he’d become too used to humans and also had developed a serious eye condition, so he was sent to Long Marine Laboratory (LML), part of University of California, Santa Cruz, for treatment and research.
Veterinarians at LML, along with staff and volunteers from The Marine Mammal Center, worked with Hō’ailona and learned a great deal. In 2011, he was sent to a permanent home at the Waikiki Aquarium where his presence brings awareness to the plight of this critically endangered species.
In 2012, The Marine Mammal Center broke ground on the Big Island in Hawaii for a facility dedicated to the care and conservation of Hawaiian monk seals. The name of this facility is
Ke Kai Ola, or The Healing Sea. This facility is our greatest hope to save this species.