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Malnourished monk seal pup rescued from Molokai

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    Hawaiian monk seal pup Sole nursed with a female monk seal on Molokai prior to the animal’s rehabilitation at Ke Kai Ola.


    Volunteers and staff from The Marine Mammal Center’s Ke Kai Ola hospital met members of the United States Coast Guard in Kona to help unload Sole, a male Hawaiian monk seal pup.


    Sole explored his pen floor during rehabilitation at The Marine Mammal Center’s Ke Kai Ola hospital in Kona.

A malnourished Hawaiian monk seal pup from Molokai is now being cared for at Ke Kai Ola, a hospital for the endangered seals in Kona, according to The Marine Mammal Center, which runs the facility.

The pup, named Sole by the Kalaupapa community, is now in stable condition at the center, where he is being fed a blended fish mash.

“With only a few hundred monk seals living in the main Hawaiian Islands, the survival of each individual is critical to the recovery of the population,” says Claire Simeone, Ke Kai Ola’s hospital director, in a news release. “Conservation takes a village. We are so grateful to our partners for their support in achieving our mission, and ensuring this pup made it safely to Ke Kai Ola.”

The center, with support from the National Park Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, rescued the pup late last week and brought it to Ke Kai Ola for treatment. The U.S. Coast Guard flew the pup from Molokai to Kona by helicopter.

Born June 20, Sole weaned prematurely from his mother earlier this month and switched to nursing from another monk seal mother, according to wildlife officials, a behavior which has occasionally been observed among other pups in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

Unfortunately, Sole’s nursing time was cut short, resulting in a lower body weight, and wildlife experts were concerned.

Eric Brown, a marine ecologist at Kalaupapa National Historic Park, said the decision to rescue the pup was made after several consultations with the patient-residents and community of Kalaupapa.

The community suggested the pup be named Sole, a Samoan name that means a young boy who is the runner for the high chief.

The Marine Mammal Center said it is rare to rescue a monk seal from the main Hawaiian Islands. Sole is the second seal from the main isles to be rehabilitated at the center.

Since opening in 2014, the center has rehabilitated 23 monk seals and returned them back to the wild, the majority of which were from the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

Members of the public should keep a safe distance from monk seals and report Hawaii island sightings to Ke Kai Ola’s response team at 987-0765. Seal sightings on other isles can be reported to the NOAA hotline at 888-256-9840.

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