Manu‘iwa, the female monk seal pup born in February on Hawaii island, has weaned from her mother, according to experts from The Marine Mammal Center in Kona.
The center is reminding the public to avoid interacting with the pup in the next few months to prevent her from getting used to human interaction.
“It’s critical for the public to avoid Manuʻiwa as much as possible, to help her understand that humans are not playmates,” said Claire Simeone, director of Ke Kai Ola, the center’s hospital for Hawaiian monk seals in Kona, in a news release. “Our response team’s priority right now is to reach out to the community to ask the public not to interact with her and report sightings to our hotline so that we can observe her behavior and help her stay wild.”
Young Hawaiian monk seals are typically very curious and interact frequently with one another, the center said. Since Manu‘iwa is currently the only pup on Hawaii island, she is therefore likely to take interest in other things in her environment, including humans, which can be dangerous for her and people.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries’ Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program has conducted a health assessment, placed identification tags on Manuʻiwa and attached a temporary satellite tag to monitor her movements. The tag is expected to stay attached to her for several weeks to months.
In the months ahead, experts said Manu’iwa is expected to range farther from her birth location, which remains undisclosed for her protection. The satellite tag will provide location data that the center’s response team will use to provide public outreach in the next several weeks to months before it falls off.
The center offers three guidelines for the public when spotting Manuʻiwa — to pause and ignore her; to not engage with her for safety reasons; and to call the center’s hotline at 987-0765 to report the sighting.