Update on Hawaiian Monk Seal Captive Rehabilitation October 2014

November 5, 2014
Researchers prepare herring meals for seals aboard ship.
Researchers prepare herring meals for seals aboard ship.

After their rehabilitation at Ke Kai Ola (The Marine Mammal Center's monk seal hospital in Kailua-Kona), the very first four patients, 2 weaned pups and 2 yearlings, were returned back to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI) in early September. During their 8-9 weeks of care, the malnourished seals were dewormed and provided with nutritional support. Each patient's body weight increased by at least 20%, and one seal (PN10 from Midway) nearly doubled her admittance weight. The release locations were determined by the 2014 NWHI survival rates of the immature seals at the different islands and other factors. The French Frigate Shoals yearling female was returned there and the Midway yearling and both Pearl and Hermes weaned pups were all released at Laysan Island. Transport was via the NOAA ship Oscar Elton Sette during the research cruise used to close down the NMFS monk seal NWHI field camps for the 2014 field season. All four patients were observed behaving appropriately for several days after release. They were also satellite tagged and the telemetry data showed that the seals acclimated well to their release sites.

Additionally, two other malnourished, female weaned pups, one from Kure Atoll and the other from Laysan Island, were collected for rehabilitation during this same cruise in September and transported to Ke Kai Ola for rehabilitation. These two seals were 3-6 months old at the time of rescue and weighed less than half of what they should for that age. They would have certainly died in the very near future if not rescued. The patients were intensively cared for while aboard the NOAA ship Oscar Elton Sette during transport and have been at Ke Kai Ola since September 18. Both seals continue to receive medical therapy and nutritional support. While these seals have a tough road ahead, the animal care staff and volunteers of The Marine Mammal Center are optimistic about their survival.