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2018 was record year for monk seal births in Hawaii

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    Monk seal mom R8HE and her female pup.


    Monk seal mom RN18 with her 7-year-old pup RKC1 (Sole) in Kalaupapa, Hawaii.

The year 2018 has been a record one for Hawaiian monk seal pups born in the main Hawaiian isles, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. While no monk seal moms gave birth in Waikiki, as Rocky did last year, creating a stir among beachgoers and generating attention worldwide, it was a good year for pups.

As of Nov. 2 of this year, 30 pups had been born in the main Hawaiian islands, soundly beating the previous record of 21 pups in 2013, NOAA Fisheries said.

In addition, eight of this year’s pups were born to first-time moms, including one born to new mom R8HE in Maui County.

“We know some folks get really excited about new seal pups and want to go see them in person — we do too!” said NOAA Fisheries in an online post. “But too many visitors can unintentionally disrupt resting and nursing. That’s why we usually refrain from publicizing specific pup locations and we ask that you do the same. By not specifying pup locations in our social media posts, we can help keep disturbance to a minimum.”

Rocky gave birth again this year, but on Kauai. Her pup, RK58, is now gaining weight at Ke Kai Ola, the monk seal hospital run by The Marine Mammal Center in Kailua-Kona, following a mom-pup switch. Another monk seal pup, Sole, was born at Kalaupapa, and taken to Ke Kai Ola, as well, following a mom-pup switch. Sole has since been released back into the wild.

Hawaiian monk seals are a critically endangered species found only in Hawaii protected by both federal and state laws. Only an estimated 1,400 monk seals remain in the wild, according to NOAA Fisheries, with about 1,100 in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, and 300 in the main Hawaiian islands.

The public is advised to stay quiet and enjoy Hawaiian monk seal moms and pups from a distance, behind signs or barriers that may be present. If no signs or volunteers are present, the public can call NOAA’s hotline at 888-256-9840 to report a monk seal mom and pup on the beach.

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