KAUAI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Almost a month after Rocky the Hawaiian monk seal gave birth to a male pup on a remote Kauai beach, wildlife experts say the mom-and-pup pair are no longer together.
Officials with the Marine Mammal Center said the trouble began when the pup, dubbed RK58, was just five days old. Volunteers noticed RK58 switch nursing mothers with another pup.
Pup switches, experts say, are a natural occurrence that happens normally in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, but aren't as common in the main Hawaiian Islands as there are less moms and pups.
This was the second observed occurrence in the main Hawaiian Islands, officials said.
"This is an unfortunate but natural occurrence that we do see in the wild," said Jessie Bohlander, of NOAA Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center's Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program.
After the first switch, wildlife officials were able to successfully bring RK58 back to Rocky, and it appeared she accepted him. But late last week, the pup switched mothers yet again.
It was then that officials tried to bring them back together, but failed after Rocky rejected him by showing signs of aggression, the Marine Mammal Center said.
"We did everything we could to keep Rocky and her pup together, but despite our best efforts, Rocky stopped nursing her pup and we had to intervene to save the pup's life," said Jamie Thomton, of the NOAA Fisheries Service.
Officials said the pup was malnourished since he only nursed for 19 days, well short of the 35- to 50-day nursing time.
The monk seal was transported to Ke Kai Ola — the Hawaiian monk seal hospital on the Big Island — ahead of rough weather conditions.