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Working with Endangered Species


Hawaiian Monk Seal – An Ongoing Conservation Project

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Hawaiian monk seal.


Hawaiian monk seals are nearly on the brink of extinction. Conservation efforts to help this animal are crucial to the long-term survival of the species.

The Hawaiian monk seal is the most endangered pinniped in the U.S., with the population estimated at around 1,100 and decreasing at 4% per year. Researchers believe the low survival rates of juvenile monk seals are attributed to entanglement, predation and malnutrition. For the past decade, The Marine Mammal Center has worked closely with government agencies and nonprofit organizations in Hawaii, including the Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, the Pacific Islands Regional office of the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Hawaii Wildlife Fund, to provide medical assistance to monk seals, often flying out veterinary teams and trained volunteers to provide hands-on medical care in make-shift facilities.

The National Oceanic Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) website provides details about each of the animals and there current whereabouts, as well as background information about the program. To learn more, click here.

Learn about plans for a new rehabiltation hospital to be built on the Big Island for Hawaiian monk seals and how you can help!

From the Archives:

The Marine Mammal Center Aids Endangered
Twin Hawaiian Monk Seals

October 17, 2006

NOAA Fisheries Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center (PIFSC) reports that the monk seal twins, known as PO22 and PO26, are now in an ocean pen back on Midway Atoll. The pups are the fourth set of known Hawaiian monk seal twins recorded and the only pair known to survive past weaning. Hawaiian monk seal mothers will not rear twins.  On Tuesday, October 17, (just days after the 6.7 earthquake rattled the Big Island) the animals were taken to Air Station Barbers Point (US Coast Guard facility) and loaded into a C-130 Hercules air transport. Although the flight to Midway was much longer than usual due to 70 mph headwinds, Dr Robert Braun, contract veterinarian PIFSC, said the twins did great on the long flight. Once on Midway, the seals were transported to their 30' X 80' ocean pen.

While the seals patiently waited in their cages, Braun and his team (three PIFSC staff and Tenaya Norris from The Marine Mammal Center) checked the pen to ensure it was secure. After making a couple of minor repairs, the twins were carried to the shoreline area of the ocean pen in their cages and the doors were opened simultaneously. Both seals came out of their cages, met at the water's edge, and proceeded to check out their new, natural surroundings while enjoying some herring.

The twins were brought to Honolulu by PIFSC at the end of May 2006 for nutritional support and kept under strict quarantine while the PIFSC reinstated a Hawaiian monk seal captive care program that had been in hiatus for eight-years. Seal PO22 arrived at PIFSC's Kewalo Research Facility weighing 65 pounds and her twin, PO26, weighed 79 pounds. Each seal is eating about seven pounds of herring a day divided into three meals. They currently weigh 112 pounds and 130 pounds respectively.

Many thanks to the U.S. Coast Guard for providing transport for the seals and to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for their cooperation on Midway Atoll.

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