Monk seal research and rescue efforts paying off - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Monk seal research and rescue efforts paying off

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

A NOAA monk seal research team returned from a 21-day mission on the Northwest Hawaiian Islands with a pair of visitors aboard the research vessel Oscar Elton; a pair of emaciated female monk seals.

"They had poor motor function, they were severely dehydrated, they were weak. Now they're acting like normal seals: they're vocalizing, they're able to move around, they're getting fatter. So the prognosis right now is still guarded but really quite good for these two animals" said Dr. Charles Littnan, Lead Scientist for the team.

The animals are being nourished at Ke Kai Ola, the recently opened Hawaiian Monk Seal hospital in Kona. Four monk seals that were successfully rehabilitated there were reintroduced into the wild during the mission.

Littnan explained that rescue efforts are critical because the survival rate of pups is only between 20-25%.

"We do see a lot of young animals that are failing in those first couple of years to get enough food" he said.

The team partook in other activities as well. They removed several thousand pounds of debris and translocated eleven animals from low survival areas to higher ones.

"If we're not up there to pick up the debris and disentangle animals, then mortality is going to skyrocket for these seals" said Littnan.

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