Wild Juvenile Seal Receives Medical Treatment for Injured Eye and is Released

April 28, 2014

R1KU is a juvenile female monk seal that was first seen on January 23, 2014 on the remote island of Niʻihau. She was called to our attention by the Robinson family because she had suffered a recent traumatic injury to the right eye. Seals can often cope with such injuries in the wild, and because she appeared otherwise healthy, we chose to treat her with an injection of long-acting antibiotics and leave her to heal in her natural habitat. R1KU was next seen a month later at Anini Beach on Kauaʻi, where volunteers of the Monk Seal Watch program found her in thin body condition. The concern that she was losing weight, paired with the infrequency of sightings, led us to admit her to rehabilitation for additional assessment.

Adobe Flash Player required to view video.
Juvenile female R1KU feeding 1 day post-surgery.

R1KU was flown from Kauaʻi to Oʻahu on February 24, thanks to the US Coast Guard, who incorporated this response into their normal training missions. A team of veterinarians and support staff cared for her at the newly opened seal rehabilitation pools at the NOAA facility on Ford Island. It was ultimately determined that the cause of her weight loss was likely due to the discomfort associated with a deteriorating eye and subsequent infection. R1KU's eye was surgically removed and she made an excellent recovery. She was eating again within a day of surgery. R1KU was released on Niʻihau, which is likely her natal island, on March 14, 2014. She has a satellite tag to monitor her movements. As of March 24, her movements were normal. She seemed to be leaving shore to forage and hauling out appropriately to rest and continue her recovery.