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NOAA reports monk seal pup at Kaimana Beach has weaned

JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARADVERTISER.COM
                                Hawaiian monk seal pup Pa‘aki frolics on the beach with mother Kaiwi in Waikiki on May 21.
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JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARADVERTISER.COM

Hawaiian monk seal pup Pa‘aki frolics on the beach with mother Kaiwi in Waikiki on May 21.

The Hawaiian monk seal pup named Pa‘aki by students, has weaned after six weeks of nursing at Kaimana Beach, according to federal wildlife officials.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration today announced the pup has officially been weaned from its mother, Kaiwi, and that the seal pup is a female, which is hopeful news for the recovery of the endangered species.

Kaiwi is believed to have given birth to Pa‘aki at Kaimana Beach on May 1.

NOAA says its nonprofit partner, Hawaii Marine Animal Response, reported that Kaiwi had departed on Sunday. HMAR volunteers and the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources continued to monitor mom and pup Monday to confirm the weaning.

“This is an important milestone for Paʻaki and mother RK96 (Kaiwi) because it marks the end of their time together during the nursing period,” said NOAA in a blog post. “Kaiwi may return to Kaimana Beach after weaning Paʻaki, but now mom and pup are both independent seals.”

During this time, it is important that the public continue to follow marine wildlife viewing guidelines, and remain a recommended distance of 50 feet from the endangered monk seals, as well as keeping dogs leashed.

According to NOAA, a mother monk seal will not leave her pup to forage for food throughout the nursing period, which lasts from five to seven weeks. She will stay with her pup until she uses up her energy reserves . When she does, she will abruptly wean the pup.

As with previous pups born at Kaimana Beach, NOAA plans to relocate Pa‘aki to a more remote shoreline on Oahu, which it will not disclose.

“Habituation is one of our most concerning issues with leaving Paʻaki in a year-round busy environment like Kaimana Beach,” said NOAA. “A young seal that receives positive interactions from people — such as attention, play, or being fed — will continue to seek out humans for these interactions. Once the seal grows and matures, that behavior can be a human safety risk.”

NOAA said moving the pup away from Kaimana Beach will allow Pa‘aki to grow up wild rather than in the crowds of beachgoers in Waikiki.

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