Endangered Hawaiian Monk Seal Released Back to Oʻahu After Receiving Life-Saving Care
- Species conservation
The Marine Mammal Center, the world’s largest marine mammal hospital, is happy to announce the release of a juvenile endangered Hawaiian monk seal back to Oʻahu.
The Center had been treating Malama, formally known as RQ76, for malnutrition at Ke Kai Ola, the Center’s Hawaiian monk seal hospital and visitor center in Kailua-Kona. The successful rescue, treatment, and release of Malama was made possible thanks to the Center’s partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG).
“For an endangered species like the Hawaiian monk seal, every patient matters. That’s especially so for a young female seal like Malama when it comes to the future recovery of the population,” says Dr. Sophie Whoriskey, the Center’s Hawaiian Monk Seal Conservation Veterinarian.
As the only partner organization permitted by NOAA Fisheries to treat and rehabilitate monk seals, we are grateful to our partners for ensuring this young pup has a second chance to return to her ocean home.
After gaining more than 50 pounds during her nearly five months in rehabilitation, the Center recommended her release, and NOAA initiated release plans. Before release, Malama was fitted with a temporary satellite tag that will allow scientists to monitor her movements in the wild.
“It’s really special when we return a rehabilitated seal to the wild,” said Diana Kramer, NOAA Fisheries’ Pacific Islands Regional Stranding Coordinator. “The first thing we saw RQ76 do was put her feeding skills to work, snacking on a sea cucumber! We’re hopeful that she will flourish and contribute to the monk seal population. And we’re thankful to the many people and partners who made RQ76’s future possible.”
Malama was born on June 6, 2022, on Mānana Island, a state seabird sanctuary off the island of O‘ahu. NOAA Fisheries along with partners and local community members were actively monitoring Malama because she was undersized when she weaned from her mother about a month after her birth. On August 4, 2022, thanks to good weather and well-coordinated plans, NOAA scientists successfully rescued the female pup. After two days of triage care at NOAA’s Daniel K. Inouye Regional Center in Honolulu, Malama was shuttled to Kona aboard the NOAA Research Vessel Oscar Elton Sette for treatment at Ke Kai Ola.
Known by researchers as RQ76, the pup was given the name Malama, meaning light, month or moon, by students at Malama Honua Charter School. The name symbolizes being a light and hope for the community.
Since 2014, the Center has rehabilitated and released 38 monk seals, most of which have been rescued from and returned to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands as part of the Center’s partnership with NOAA Fisheries, 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 Fisheries and other cooperating agencies is more important than ever to prevent this endangered species from becoming extinct.
The Marine Mammal Center is recruiting new volunteers for operations on Hawai‘i Island and Maui. Recruitment ends on February 13. Learn more about volunteering and sign up to attend upcoming virtual trainings.
Hawaiian monk seal conservation volunteers play an integral role in helping save this endangered species by monitoring and identifying seals that may require rescue and rehabilitation. Volunteers also provide valuable public outreach to help raise awareness about the risks of human and pet interactions, and why this native animal is critical to the health of our shared ocean home.
The Center values volunteer engagement and inclusivity, and is proud to welcome existing and new volunteers into its ohana, or family, to create an even more robust and diverse community of volunteers.
Header image: Photo © NOAA Fisheries
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Hawaiian Monk Seal