Injured Hawaiian Monk Seal lives to see 2015 thanks to intense r - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Injured Hawaiian Monk Seal lives to see 2015 thanks to intense rescue

RE74 also known as "Benny" RE74 also known as "Benny"
A team of wildlife experts removed more than 25 feet of line from Benny's mouth A team of wildlife experts removed more than 25 feet of line from Benny's mouth
X-rays revealed a 4-inch hook in Benny's stomach X-rays revealed a 4-inch hook in Benny's stomach
As Hawaii celebrated New Years Eve, doctors spent more than two hours performing life-saving surgery As Hawaii celebrated New Years Eve, doctors spent more than two hours performing life-saving surgery
Benny is now swimming in a rehabilitation pool and has started to eat fish Benny is now swimming in a rehabilitation pool and has started to eat fish
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

A hooked Hawaiian Monk Seal has another shot at life thanks to an intense rescue effort and a New Year's Eve surgery.

RE74, also known as "Benny," was found with a line coming from his mouth while getting into the water at Kaena Point last Monday.

"The beaches were searched very heavily the following morning and he was seen at White Plains in the morning around 9 o'clock. The team was able to get to site quickly and capture him and get him into care,” said conservative medicine veterinarian Michelle Barbieri.

Right there on the beach, a team of wildlife experts removed more than 25 feet of line from Benny's mouth. But the hook was lodged deep in his body. So they brought him to a lab at Pearl Harbor where X-rays revealed a 4-inch hook in Benny's stomach. As Hawaii celebrated New Years Eve, the doctors spent more than two hours performing life-saving surgery.

"It's not every day that you're monitoring a seal after it recovers from anesthesia and you look around you outside in the seal holding area and see fireworks in all directions,” Barbieri said.

Scientists with the Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program say there are about six to 12 seal hookings each year. Most are in the mouth and can be removed fairly easily. Removal by intense surgery like Benny's case is rare.

There are only about 1,100 to 1,200 Hawaiian Monk Seals left and only about 200 in the main Hawaiian Islands. So veterinarians say saving Benny was crucial.

"Hawaiian monk seals are endangered and they are a really important part, not only to our appreciation to our natural environment, but they are instrumental part of the ecosystem that is unique to Hawaii," said Barbieri.

Benny is now swimming in a rehabilitation pool and has started to eat fish. If he continues his upswing, he will be released back to the wild in the next few weeks.

NOAA depends on the public to report incidents like this one because it's vital to the Hawaiian Monk Seal survival. If you see a hooked seal, call the 24-hour marine mammal hotline at 888-256-9840.

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