PO‘IPU — The baby Hawaiian monk seal born early Tuesday morning on the beach fronting the Castle Resorts’ phase of Kiahuna Plantation in Po‘ipu has been identified as a boy.
Volunteers manning the cordoned-off area protecting the endangered marine mammals said that Gretchen Johnson, contracted by the state as a co-site coordinator, made the identification on Friday, as she joined Dr. Mimi Olry, Kaua‘i marine-conservation coordinator, at the Po‘ipu site.
Additionally, Johnson also positively identified the mother as K12.
Johnson, who recently returned from the Northwest Hawaiian Islands, where she was involved in monk-seal research, said that K12 pupped last year at a beach at Maha‘ulepu, and the year before that, pupped on an Eastside beach on Kaua‘i. Beyond that, she said there is no other information on the mother.
Earlier, volunteers suspected that the mother might have been a first-time mother due to her behavior with the pup.
Olry and the volunteers from the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary were visited by Chris Yates, Saturday, Yates noting that he needed to see the situation firsthand to be able to make an accurate report of the situation that exists on the heavily-trafficked beach.
“We have to protect the seals,” said Yates, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Marine Mammal Branch chief, while surveying the setup on the Po‘ipu shoreline.
“Mimi is doing a great job,” he added. “The volunteers are also doing a great job. And, we really appreciate everything that is being done by the hotels.”
Yates noted that, in previous births in high-traffic beaches, there were unhappy beachgoers who did not appreciate large portions of the beach being cordoned off.
“We’re trying to strike a fine balance between protecting the seals while allowing beach-goers to access the beach,” Yates said.
“We’re trying not to close off any areas to maximize the beach-goers’ right to enjoy the beaches.”
Part of this solution was the erecting of the temporary trial, windscreened walkway on Wednesday, just a day after the pup was born.
That walkway allows beach-goers passage from Marriott’s Waiohai Beach Club to the Sheraton Kauai Resort portion of Po‘ipu Beach side without having to detour around the parking boundary between Marriott’s Waiohai Beach Club and Kiahuna Plantation.
Olry said that, because people have been pulling at the windscreen material, they’ve had to extend the height of the screening, but overall, the walkway idea has been successful.
“Some water came through the material on the high tide, but it survived,” she noted.
“There are some areas which need shoring up but, for the most part, the mother hasn’t seen a human,” one of the volunteers offered.
The volunteers said that, besides offering beach-goers a shortened route between the beaches, it also offers them a view of the nursing seals that’s closer than other people would be able to have.
“It’s a real good opportunity for people to see nature in action,” they said.
“This is the highlight of my vacation,” said Kathleen Nasser of Tucson, Ariz., who has been visiting the site regularly. Nasser, who owns a dog in Arizona, likens the antics of the pup to her own canine’s behavior, cooing with glee as the pup rolled about in the occasional high shore break Saturday afternoon.
Bruce Parsil, who has been conducting the volunteer-training seminars twice daily since Wednesday, is also pleased with the turnout of people who are attending the seminars as well as signing up to help monitor the activity of the seals.
Parsil said that, at one seminar, he met a lady who witnessed some interaction between humans and seals that she was not pleased with and, following the seminar, was thrilled to find out that she could actively be a part of the experience.
The volunteer-training seminars will continue twice today, Sunday, Sept. 4, at 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., at the Marketplace lobby in Marriott’s Waiohai Beach Club.
“It’s all about coexistence,” Yates said.
- Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, may be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or firstname.lastname@example.org.