SAND’S GONE, SEALS STILL THERE

PO’IPU — Tuesday marked the one-month birthday of the Hawaiian monk seal pup born at Po’ipu.

Now, volunteers are counting the days until mother will abandon the male pup to fend for himself.

Normally, the mother and pup part ways after about six weeks.

On his birthday, the pup was lazing alongside his mother in the rising tide, with Dr. Mimi Olry, the Kaua’i marine conservation officer, and her staff of volunteers still maintaining a vigil over the newborn pup.

Olry indicated that the pup now weighs between 110 to 120 pounds.

This is a departure from his newborn weight, which was estimated to be about 25 to 30 pounds.

The pup’s mother, who has never left his side to feed, has also decreased in weight and bulk, Olry said. “You could see her ribs when she came out of the water today.”

Normally, Hawaiian monk seal pups nurse for six weeks after being born, which leaves approximately two more weeks for the pup and mom to be on the beach fronting the Castle Resorts’ Kiahuna Plantation cottages.

Olry said they have “a few hardy souls” who have been religiously turning out to do volunteer shifts, and was thankful for the fence fronting the former Poipu Beach Hotel.

She mentioned that some visitors stop by, and also volunteer, while they are here.

The temporary walkway between Marriott’s Waiohai Beach Club and the Castle Resorts’ Kiahuna Plantation has been closed due to the erosion in the area. That was caused by the large south swell that hammered the area two weeks ago, resulting in a lot of the sand being washed away.

Sand that had originally covered most of the rocks fronting the Waiohai volunteer tent is gone, exposing a line of rocks, with the waves almost lapping at the tent.

The monk seal pair, in losing their original sand beach, have consequently moved higher up on the beach, and Olry, after surveying the situation, said, “I’m not going to take that away from her.”

That means pedestrians wanting to cross the beach have had to detour up the Waiohai drive-way, and cross into the Kiahuna Plantation driveway before returning to the beach.

Additional signs of erosion saw the remnants of a former plastic fence emerge from the sand, a lot of the spectators mistaking the fencing as belonging to officials with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries division.

“We might trim it back when we’re through here,” Olry said. But, for now, it does not pose a hazard to the seal pair, so the volunteers are letting it go.

The seal pup and mother have been making daily swims in the lagoon area, and Olry noted that, earlier this week, the pup went as far as the Sheraton Kauai Resort point alone before returning.

Olry said the pup briefly stopped at the west volunteer tent, creating some concern that they would have to move that location. But, after a cursory investigation, the seal returned to his original birth-place.

By next week, Olry said the pup will start changing the color of its jet black coat to the more familiar brown, like his mother.

“If the light hits him a certain way, you can see some of that brown fur already,” Olry said.

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