KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii >> A new emergency room for endangered Hawaiian monk seals has officially opened on the Big Island.
The Marine Mammal Center held a blessing and grand opening celebration for its Hawaiian monk seal hospital on Wednesday.
The $3.2 million facility in Kailua-Kona is named Ke Kai Ola.
The hospital received its first patients in July when scientists brought in four malnourished seals they picked up during a research trip to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.
Veterinarians and trained volunteers nursed the seals back to health. The seals headed back to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands on Sunday.
There are only about 1,100 Hawaiian monk seals remaining, and their population is declining about 3 to 4 percent per year.
The Marine Mammal Center is a California-based nonprofit veterinary hospital