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4 rescued monk seal pups thriving at Big Island’s Ke Kai Ola

  • COURTESY NOAA

    Hawaiian monk seal pup DL36 is seen at Pearl and Hermes Atoll before her rescue recently. She was one of four malnourished monk seal pups rescued from Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument who now doing well at the Marine Mammal Center’s monk seal hospital in Kailua-Kona.

Four malnourished monk seal pups rescued from Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument are now doing well in the care of Ke Kai Ola, The Marine Mammal Center’s monk seal hospital in Kailua-Kona.

The rescue of the Hawaiian monk seal pups — a critically endangered species — was conducted in partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“This is a critical time for the endangered Hawaiian monk seal,” said Dr. Cara Field, TMMC staff veterinarian, in a news release. “These four female pups were all underweight and unlikely to survive the winter without intervention. Of the approximately 1,400 monk seals researchers estimate remain in the wild, nearly 30% are alive today as a result of these types of conservation efforts. Continued funding and support for this work is so important.”

Scientists aboard the NOAA research vessel Oscar Elton Sette picked up the pups recently — two from Pearl and Hermes Reef and two from Lisianski Island — during their return journey to Honolulu.

The U.S. Coast Guard transported the pups from Honolulu to Ke Kai Ola in Kailua-Kona.

All four pups were weaned too young, and were too weak to catch fish on their own, according to researchers, who estimated their chance of survival on their own at less than 1%.

Megan McGinnis, animal care manager at Ke Kai Ola, said its expert team is monitoring the progress of all four patients, who are being tube-fed a fish-mash smoothie with multi-vitamins and electrolytes three times a day.

“The seals have been quite vocal and feisty from the start,” she said, “which is a very encouraging sign.”

The four pups, for now, are referred to as DL32, DL36, LL34 and LL00.

Since 2014, the Center has rehabilitated and released 28 monk seals, including RH38 from Kauai, twice.

Officials remind the public to remain a safe distance from monk seals. Sightings can be reported to NOAA’s statewide hotline at 888- 256-9840.


A group of biologists recently returned from months of researching Hawaiian monk seals and sea turtles in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

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