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Hawaiian monk seal 'Eleu
Press Release

Endangered Hawaiian Monk Seal Released Back to Northwestern Hawaiian Islands After Rehabilitation

October 1, 2021
  • Species conservation

Endangered Hawaiian monk seal released back to Northwestern Hawaiian Islands after rehabilitation by The Marine Mammal Center at Ke Kai Ola, a dedicated hospital for monk seals on Hawai‘i Island

The pre-weaned female seal’s release to Kapou (Lisianski Island) marks an important boost to the endangered species’ long-term recovery

The Marine Mammal Center, the world’s largest marine mammal hospital, successfully released an endangered Hawaiian monk seal back to Kapou (Lisianski Island) after rehabilitation at Ke Kai Ola, the Center’s hospital and visitor center in Kailua-Kona that is dedicated to the endangered marine mammal. 

As an essential business operating during the ongoing pandemic, the Center is committed to continuing its core mission work that includes conservation of threatened and endangered species.

“To return a young female pup back to the wild that had nearly zero chance of survival without intervention is an incredible success story,” says Dr. Sophie Whoriskey, Hawaiian Monk Seal Conservation Veterinarian at The Marine Mammal Center. 

As an endangered species, each monk seal matters, and this case highlights the importance of our ongoing partnerships to help treat and return them back to their ocean home.

Hawaiian monk seal ʻEleu spent more than two months in rehabilitative care for malnutrition and maternal separation after being rescued in June from Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. During her treatment, the pre-weaned pup greatly improved in overall body condition and stamina.

ʻEleu experienced a remarkable weight gain of more than 90 pounds, nearly tripling in overall weight. Before her release, the seal was fitted with a temporary satellite tag that allows scientists to monitor her post-release. The satellite tag data will be combined with visual monitoring by researchers as possible.

“Rehabilitating a young pup in such a short period of time is no small feat,” says Dr. Michelle Barbieri, Lead Scientist for NOAA’s Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program. 

We applaud The Marine Mammal Center for the expert care they provided ʻEleu, and are honored to support her return to Papahānaumokuākea as part of our Hawaiian monk seal research and recovery activities and our partnership with the Center.

Learn More About Hawaiian Monk Seals

The successful release of ʻEleu was made possible thanks to the Center’s partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), and the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG).

On Friday, September 10, the Oscar Elton Sette, a NOAA research vessel transporting scientists and supplies to conduct monk seal research and conservation efforts in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, shuttled ʻEleu from Kailua-Kona to Kapou. The animal was released from a beach pen a few days later.

Since 2014, the Center has rehabilitated and released 36 monk seals, most of which have been rescued from and returned to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. as part of the partnership with NOAA, utilizing resources in the area to identify seals in need, rescue and rehabilitate them, and give them a second chance at life.

The Center’s partnership with NOAA and other cooperating agencies is more important than ever to prevent this endangered species from becoming extinct. Approximately 30 percent of monk seals that are alive today are due to conservation efforts led by NOAA and partners like The Marine Mammal Center.

For more information or to set up an interview on this topic, please contact us at


Header image: photo by Sheila Latta © The Marine Mammal Center / NOAA permit #18786

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species conservation
Sophie Whoriskey
Hawaiian Monk Seal