Thursday, Sept. 28, 2023 |
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PO’IPU — The Hawaiian monk seal pup, a male born on Aug. 30, and his mom, were frolicking at water’s edge in Po’ipu most of last week, almost in the same spot where the pup was born.
But, this wasn’t always the case, as observers said that the mother and pup have been going out to swim, and on one occasion a few days ago, came ashore in a location different from where the pup was born.
This set up a situation for the volunteers, who were ready to relocate the ropes and cordoned-off areas, but mom and pup relocated themselves back to the original pupping site, thereby set-tling down the volunteers.
Born with jet-black fur, the pup still has its black coat, but has grown in size.
Beach-goers have said they enjoy the antics of the lively pup, who was enjoying the waning moments of sun by rolling about in the sand, his flippers flapping on occasion.
“He’s a wriggly one,” one of the volunteers chuckled.
Dr. Mimi Olry, the Kaua’i marine conservation officer, noted that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration leaders from the O’ahu office are pleased with the situation in Po’ipu, and are in the process of preparing instructions that will be distributed to the media.
This pertains to information beachgoers need to be aware of when the mom and pup begin to swim more and move to other parts of the beach.
Earlier, Chris Yates, the NOAA Fisheries’ Marine Mammal bureau chief, said that they are trying to strike a balance between protecting the endangered Hawaiian monk seal while still allowing beach-goers the right to use the beach.
To this end, Olry indicated that the trial walkway has worked successfully. She said that they have started a survey, and have discovered that between 60 to 100 people traverse the walkway, including many families who are visiting with their young children.
Additionally, Olry said that “Po’ipu Mom,” another pregnant Hawaiian monk seal that they’ve been monitoring, has gotten rid of the fish hook that had been stuck in her jaw.
Originally, Olry and other volunteers had consulted with Dr. Bob Braun, considered one of the top marine-mammal veterinarians in the state, about the situation, when it was discovered. Braun suggested that they leave the hook undisturbed until after the seal gives birth, to avoid unnecessary trauma to the pregnant seal.
Volunteers and staff from the NOAA Fisheries, Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, and the Kaua’i Monk Seal program, are on hand during a lot of the time, to answer questions from beach-users, as well as monitor the seals’ behavior patterns.
The normal nursing period for the Hawaiian monk seal is approximately six weeks, after which the mother seal will abandon her pup, returning to the ocean to feed.
During the nursing period, the mother seal will not leave the side of the pup, even to feed, Olry said.
The pup has ventured near the water’s edge, and is expected to begin swimming up and down the beach in the shallow areas close to shore very shortly, officials said.
When this occurs, the mother seal is expected to follow the pup, and attempt to protect it from any danger she perceives the pup may be in.
What this means is that swimmers, surfers, and other people in the water anywhere near the mother or pup, may be bitten or otherwise harmed by the mother seal, officials said.
According to state Department of Land and Natural Resources officials, it is impossible to predict what the mother may perceive as a threat to her pup, or to provide any reliable guidance to ocean-users as to what a safe distance away from the seals might be.
Due to the constraints imposed by the U.S. Endangered Species Act, it is also impossible for anyone to legally move the seals to a different location.
Volunteers are need to help educate visitors and protect the newborn Hawaiian monk seal and his mom from disturbances, officials said.
Free training is available from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. every day except Tuesdays. Please call 651-0909 to volunteer, or for more information.
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