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A Place of Healing for Hawaiian Monk Seals:
Celebrating the Opening of Ke Kai Ola

Sick and injured Hawaiian monk seals will get a second chance at survival thanks to The Marine Mammal Center’s new Hawaiian monk seal hospital, Ke Kai Ola (The Healing Sea), which is dedicated to the rescue and care of this critically endangered species.

September 4, 2014

Hāla‘i, a juvenile female Hawaiian monk seal rehabilitates at The Marine Mammal Center’s Ke Kai Ola Hawaiian Monk Seal Hospital. Her Hawaiian name means “calm, peaceful.”
© The Marine Mammal Center, NMFS Permit 16632-00 and 932-1905-01MA-009526-1


On September 2, the Center held a Grand Opening celebration and blessing at the $3.2 million facility, which includes two pens and pools for monk seal pups and two larger pools for juvenile seals, as well as a medical lab, offices, food prep kitchen and education pavilion.

The event began with a warm “aloha” from Jeff Boehm, executive director of the Center, as he welcomed guests including supporters and partners from across the country, as well as volunteers, community members and local government officials. In addition, all three of the Center’s original founders—Lloyd Smalley, Paul Maxwell and Pat Arrigoni—were in attendance and proud to see how far the Center has come since 1975.

Jeff Boehm, executive director of The Marine Mammal Center, welcomes the crowd to Ke Kai Ola during the Grand Opening event on September 2, 2014.
© Heather White Images


Kumu Danny Akaka, Jr., invited the crowd to join in a traditional Hawaiian blessing ceremony before officially opening Ke Kai Ola. As waves crashed upon the lava rocks, sending ocean spray high into the air behind him, Danny spoke about his role in helping name the hospital.

Kumu Danny Akaka, Jr. blesses The Marine Mammal Center’s Ke Kai Ola Hawaiian Monk Seal Hospital during the Grand Opening event on September 2, 2014.
© Heather White Images

Danny said that he chose the name Ke Kai Ola (The Healing Sea) because he knew the facility would be a place of great healing not just for the Hawaiian monk seals but also for humans, as they gather to care for and learn about this native Hawaiian species through our public outreach programs.

And in fact, Ke Kai Ola has already served as a place of healing for four young Hawaiian monk seals that were underweight and malnourished when they arrived at the hospital July 9. The Center’s veterinary experts and trained volunteers from the community cared for the seals until they were deemed healthy enough to return home.

“As I speak, four young monk seals are on a NOAA research vessel headed for the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands,” Jeff said in his opening remarks. “They are fat and feisty and ready to return to the wild after spending seven weeks with us here at Ke Kai Ola.”

For a population estimated at fewer than 1,100 animals, sending four healthy seals back to sea is a significant victory. Fewer than one in five Hawaiian monk seal pups in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands survive their first year due to threats like entanglement in ocean trash, changes in the food chain and predation.

But now that Ke Kai Ola’s doors are officially open, we can start to change that.

Hawaiian monk seal pups Ikaika and Kūlia rehabilitate at the Ke Kai Ola Hawaiian Monk Seal Hospital.
© The Marine Mammal Center, NMFS Permit 16632-00 and 932-1905-01MA-009526-1

Thanks to funding from the Firedoll Foundation as well as a very generous family foundation and hundreds of other donors throughout the world, our hospital can now assist in the effort to save a species from extinction.

Learn more about Hawaiian monk seals and how you can support their ongoing care at Ke Kai Ola.

Watch a short video that shows the interaction between Ikaika and Kūlia, two of the first Hawaiian monks seal patients at the new hospital.

Help save Hawaiian monk seals today!




Read about the new Hawaiian Monk Seal Hospital.

Learn about Hawaiian monk seals!

Read about the First Patients at Ke Kai Ola.

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