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Seven Monk Seal Patients Spotted in the Wild


July 5, 2018

Hawaiian monk seals Kilo and Ama at Ke Kai Ola.
All photos © The Marine Mammal Center, NOAA permit #18786


“Seeing seven of our previous monk seal patients in the wild, all reported to be in good body condition, is especially exciting not only because it is a measure of success for our work at Ke Kai Ola but also because it reassures us that the species is continuously fighting to make a comeback in tough environmental times,” says Dr. Claire Simeone, the Center’s conservation medicine veterinarian and hospital director at Ke Kai Ola.

Thanks to generous supporters and volunteers, the endangered Hawaiian monk seal population now has its own hospital where they get a second chance at life in the wild.

Seven previous patients of The Marine Mammal Center’s Hawaiian monk seal hospital, Ke Kai Ola, have recently been spotted by NOAA researchers in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. This 1,200-mile archipelago of small islands and atolls is home to about 900 of the 1,300 Hawaiian monk seals alive today.

Thanks to supporters like you, since the opening of Ke Kai Ola (The Healing Sea) in 2014, we have rehabilitated and released 23 healthy Hawaiian monk seals. The seven that were recently seen each spent several months at Ke Kai Ola receiving treatment, mainly for malnutrition.

“The Hawaiian monk seal population still has a long way to go to recover, but seeing these past patients that have survived, and can potentially have pups of their own in the future, instills a strong sense of hope,” says Dr. Claire Simeone.

Meet the Magnificent Seven!

Mililani was a three-year-old juvenile at the time of her rescue on May 31, 2017. After about two months of treatment, she was released in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands at Tern Island on August 14, 2017. On June 12, about a year later, she was seen on French Frigate Shoals.

Maka`ala was a just yearling at the time of her rescue on July 6, 2014. She was one of the very first patients at Ke Kai Ola! On September 1 of that year, she was released on French Frigate Shoals. She was also resighted there on June 10, 2018.

Mo`o was just a yearling at the time of her rescue on September 27, 2015. Mo`o means “gecko” in Hawaiian, and she was given this name because of all the green algae on her fur! After many months of rehabilitation, she was released in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands on April 20, 2016. On June 12, 2018, she was spotted on French Frigate Shoals.

Mea Ola was one of the oldest patients at Ke Kai Ola to date. She was rescued on August 25, 2016, as a 5-year-old subadult. After several months of treatment, she was released on May 25, 2017, in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. She was spotted on June 20, 2018, on French Frigate Shoals. Mea Ola is one of our few patients that is now an adult, so our fingers are crossed for new pups in the near future!

Ama`ama was just a pup when she was rescued on September 14, 2015. She was released a few months later, on April 20, 2016, in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. She was seen on French Frigate Shoals on June 5, 2018.

Pua was a weaned pup at the time of her rescue on September 12, 2014. She gained an impressive amount of weight during her six months at Ke Kai Ola, going from 40 pounds to 227 pounds! She was released on March 28, 2015, on the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and seen June 17, 2018, on Kure Atoll.

Meleana was a weaned pup when she was rescued on September 19, 2014. Like Pua, she also gained a substantial amount of weight during her treatment, going from 51 pounds to 246 pounds! She was released in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands on March 28, 2015. Researchers spotted her on Lisianski Island on June 2, 2018.

Young seals are the most vulnerable animals in the population with relatively few surviving to adulthood. Pups and juvenile seals in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands often fall victim to threats like entanglement in ocean trash, changes in the food chain and predation.

Endangered Hawaiian monk seals are also highly sensitive to climate change impacts. Sea-level rise and increased coastal erosion will reduce the haul-out sites they depend on, and may increase shark predation. Increasing sea surface temperatures will limit available prey for marine mammals just as it has on the West Coast of the United States.


You Can Be a Hawaiian Monk Seal Hero


Thanks to our generous donors, the Hawaiian monk seal population has been given a second chance at life in the wild. You can make a real difference for this endangered species and all of the marine mammals in our care by making a gift today.


 


 

Related:

Read more about Working With Endangered Species.

Learn about Hawaiian monk seals!

Find out about the Current and Released Patients at Ke Kai Ola.

 

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