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Hawaiian monk seal RP92
Press Release

Hook-Free and Headed Home: Hawaiian Monk Seal RP92 Released After Receiving Life-Saving Care

July 13, 2022
  • Species conservation
  • Entanglement

Hawaiian monk seal RP92 released back to his ocean home on Molokaʻi after receiving life-saving care at dedicated hospital for monk seals on Hawai‘i Island

The Marine Mammal Center, the world’s largest marine mammal hospital, approved the release of an endangered Hawaiian monk seal back to Molokaʻi, where he was initially rescued. 

The Center’s veterinary experts treated the seal for fishing gear ingestion at Ke Kai Ola, the Center’s hospital in Kailua-Kona that is dedicated to the endangered marine mammal. 

The successful rescue, treatment and release of RP92 was made possible thanks to the Center’s partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) and the National Park Service.

“Our team is thrilled to release RP92 back to the wild after he made a full recovery from a complex procedure to remove a swallowed fishing hook, an incredible success story,” says Dr. Sophie Whoriskey, the Center’s Hawaiian Monk Seal Conservation Veterinarian. 

This seal’s story reemphasizes the importance of our ongoing partnerships to help save this species when the survival of each individual is critical to the recovery of the population.

The Center’s team utilized special dehooking tools while RP92 was under anesthesia to safely remove the ingested hook near the animal’s larynx, avoiding a more complex surgery and recovery. 

Analysis from a series of blood and fecal samples taken during the initial care process showed no signs of illness, including toxoplasmosis. After the endoscopy procedure, veterinary experts noted the animal was recovering well.

After gaining more than 25 pounds during his more than five weeks in rehabilitation, the Center recommended his release, and NOAA initiated release plans.

Hawaiian monk seal RP92 with a satellite tag
Hawaiian monk seal RP92 with a satellite tag / photo by Sheila Latta © The Marine Mammal Center / NOAA permit #18786
on the left, an x-ray image of RP92 showing the ingested hook; on the right, the hook and line after removal
Special dehooking tools were used to remove the ingested fishing hook seen in RP92's X-ray image (left) and after removal (right) / photos © The Marine Mammal Center / NOAA permit #18786
Hawaiian monk seal RP92
Hawaiian monk seal RP92 after the fishing hook was removed / photo by Sophie Whoriskey © The Marine Mammal Center / NOAA permit #18786

A special lift to Moloka‘i

Thanks to NOAA’s coordination with partners, on Friday morning, July 8, a team from The Marine Mammal Center met USCG crewmembers at Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport to safely transfer RP92. A Center staff member accompanied the seal aboard a USCG helicopter during the flight to designated National Park Service land on Molokaʻi. 

RP92 was successfully released back to the wild the same day. Before release, the animal was fitted with a temporary satellite tag that will allow scientists to monitor his movements in the wild.

“The life of each monk seal is critically important, especially since there are just over 1,500 left in the world,” said Diana Kramer, NOAA Fisheries Protected Resources Division, Pacific Islands Region. 

We’re thankful to have such great partners to care for seals like RP92.

"We’re also excited to learn more about RP92’s life and movements through the satellite tag. There is so much these animals can teach us. We hope to use the information gained from RP92’s tag to track his success, and also for broader population recovery efforts,” Kramer added.

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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. Approximately 30 percent of monk seals that are alive today are due to conservation efforts led by NOAA Fisheries and partners like The Marine Mammal Center.

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species conservation
Sophie Whoriskey
Hawaiian Monk Seal