Hawaiian monk seal to have state-of-the-art surgery - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Hawaiian monk seal to have state-of-the-art surgery

David Schofield David Schofield
Walter Ritte Walter Ritte

By Tim Sakahara - bio | email

WAIKIKI (HawaiiNewsNow) - There are only 1,100 Hawaiian Monk Seals left in the wild.  One of them named KP2 (Kauai Pup 2) is going blind and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or NOAA is trying to help him see again.   

KP2 will be flown to California next week for surgery.  Chances are he will not be released back into the wild and already there are questions about where he'll stay.

KP2 is a survivor.  His mom abandoned him at birth and was found weak and fragile.  He was raised in captivity and when strong enough released near Molokai.  But the lovable seal became too friendly and NOAA picked him up to move him to an area away from people.  That's when they discovered the 18-month-old has cataracts and is 80 percent blind.

"It is not a good condition for a young seal to have at this point," said David Schofield, NOAA Fisheries Service.
The seal will be flown to a state of the art facility at the University of California Santa Cruz for cataract surgery.  NOAA says the best surgeon and staff will come in from all over the country for the operation.

"He deserves anything we can do for him and the best that we can do for him," said Schofield.

The best costs money but NOAA says it's already received several donations.

"So the cost for the surgery will likely be minimal but we haven't sat down and quantified it yet," said Schofield.

"Bear in mind we're dealing with an endangered species, there are only 1,100 left and putting a monetary values on something like this is really not a good idea," said Andrew Rossiter, Waikiki Aquarium, where KP2 is currently staying.

Taxpayers will pay $50,000 for KP2's future home.  NOAA plans to build a facility at Sea Life Park in Waimanalo but that $50,000 is only half the cost and Sea Life Park managers aren't sure where the rest of the money will come from in this down economy.  They already have two tanks with four monk seals that were brought in by NOAA.

Meanwhile Molokai residents, who originally protested NOAA when KP2 was moved, want a tank built on Molokai.

"So no matter what we say, no matter what NOAA says, for some strange reason that seal is going to have a say where he's going to go," said Walter Ritte, Molokai Resident, who says he and others will lobby for KP2 to be returned to Molokai.
While KP2 was abandoned at birth it seems no one is willing to give up on him in life.

KP2 is expected to be in California recovering for a year or possibly longer if the plan is not finalized where he'll stay in Hawaii.

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