Sole, a malnourished monk seal pup rescued from Kalaupapa over the summer, has successfully been released back to the ocean at Molokai after being rehabilitated at Ke Kai Ola, according to The Marine Mammal Center.
After doubling his weight and developing a silver coat, he was ready to be released, according to Claire Simeone, director of Ke Kai Ola, the monk seal hospital run by TMMC in Kailua-Kona.
Sole, who was given his Samoan name by the Kalaupapa community (meaning young boy who is runner for the high chief) was released where he was originally rescued about three weeks ago. He was outfitted with a satellite tag from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to track his movements, with assistance from the U.S. Coast Guard and Kalaupapa National Park Service.
“He was visually sighted several times, doing great,” said Simeone. “He traveled all around Molokai and to Oahu.”
He was just sighted the day before Thanksgiving on Oahu, doing great.
Sole was one of two male monk seal pups rescued this summer after mom-pup nursing switches. He was born June 20, and weaned prematurely from his mother when he switched to another monk seal mom to nurse, a behavior which has occasionally been observed among other pups in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.
Another male monk seal pup, RK58, was also rescued and brought to Ke Kai Ola over the summer after his mother, Rocky, appeared to leave him on Kauai following another mom-pup nursing switch. RK58 and Sole bonded and played with one another at Ke Kai Ola.
While they are the same age, RK58 is not ready for release yet, said Simeone. He continues to gain weight and learn to eat fish independently. RK58 remains at Ke Kai Ola, along with monk seal pups ‘Akulikuli, a male, and Maiapilo, a female, rescued in September from Laysan Island in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.
Members of the public should keep a safe distance from endangered 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.