By AUDREY McAVOY
HONOLULU (AP) - Federal wildlife biologists are taking four malnourished Hawaiian monk seals to the Big Island's monk seal hospital.
The Marine Mammal Center said Thursday two of the seals were prematurely weaned by their mothers. One is a yearling. The fourth is an extremely underweight five-year-old.
The biologists captured the seals during a trip to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands this summer. A NOAA research vessel brought them to the Big Island on Wednesday for transport to the Marine Mammal Center's monk seal hospital in Kailua-Kona.
Hawaiian monk seals are a critically endangered species. There are only about 1,300 remaining in the wild and their population is declining.
NOAA officials hope to help stem the population's decline by nursing malnourished monk seals back to health.