LIHUE — While Hawaiian Monk Seal RH38 is recuperating after being released from Ke Kai Ola back into the wild on Kauai, The Marine Mammal Center’s monk seal hospital in Kona on Hawaii Island has just admitted four new seals.
All four of them come from the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Two were rescued from Pearl and Hermes Atoll and are known as DL32 and DL36. Both were weaned early at a small size and were unlikely to survive the winter season due to their poor body condition.
The other two seals are from Lisianski Island, LL34 and LL00. They are a little older and are also quite thin. Both were evaluated after weaning during the spring cruise but were not candidates for rescue at that time.
The four seals were transported to Ke Kai Ola first aboard National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Research Vessel Oscar Elton Sette, where scientists examined and provided initial treatment for the seals. The research ship shuttled the pups to Honolulu, and from there they were quickly transported via a U.S. Coast Guard aircraft to Ke Kai Ola.
“This is a critical time for the endangered Hawaiian monk seal. These four female pups were all underweight and unlikely to survive the winter without intervention,” said Dr. Cara Field, staff veterinarian at The Marine Mammal Center, who helped oversee their rescue and initial care.
“Of the approximately 1,400 monk seals researchers estimate remain in the wild, nearly 30 percent are alive today as a result of these types of conservation efforts. Continued funding and support for this work is so important,” she said.
The rescued pups are continuing to follow a strict treatment regime, including taking oral multivitamins and electrolytes added to their daily tube feedings to help boost hydration.
“Our expert team is carefully monitoring the progress of all four patients. They are currently being tube-fed a fish-mash smoothie three times a day at the hospital to help them get the necessary nutrients they need to regain strength,” said Megan McGinnis, the Marine Mammal Center’s animal care manager at Ke Kai Ola. “The seals have been quite vocal and feisty from the start, which is a very encouraging sign.”
Kauai’s RH38 knows Ke Kai Ola well — she’s been there for rehabilitation twice. During her second rehabilitation, RH38 was successfully treated for numerous serious medical ailments including trauma, pneumonia, an eye injury and multiple organ infections. This most recent sighting highlights the long-term impact the center’s work is having to protect and save Hawaiian monk seals.
RH38 is one of 28 seals the center has rehabilitated since 2014.