Grow­ing pop­u­la­tion

Manu‘iwa, above with her mom, is one of two Hawai­ian monk seals born this year

Honolulu Star-Advertiser - - FRONT PAGE - By Nina Wu nwu@starad­ver­tiser.com

We have pups that are born in ev­ery month of the year. We tend to have a peak in the spring or sum­mer, but they do pop up year-round.”

Sta­cie Robin­son Re­search ecol­o­gist, Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion and At­mo­spheric As­so­ci­a­tion’s Hawai­ian

Monk Seal Re­search Pro­gram

The first two Hawai­ian monk seal pups of 2018 have ar­rived — one on Lanai and the se­cond on Hawaii is­land.

A fe­male pup was born Jan. 6 on Lanai, and an­other fe­male was born Feb. 8 on the lee­ward side of the Big Is­land, ac­cord­ing to Sta­cie Robin­son, re­search ecol­o­gist for the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion and At­mo­spheric As­so­ci­a­tion’s Hawai­ian Monk Seal Re­search Pro­gram.

They are the first two monk seal pups that vol­un­teers have doc­u­mented and pho­tographed, ac­cord­ing to Robin­son, though oth­ers could have been born on Ni­ihau and else­where. NOAA will not know un­til it con­ducts a sur­vey there.

“We have pups that are born in ev­ery month of the year,” said Robin­son. “We tend to have a peak in the spring or sum­mer, but they do pop up year-round.”

The monk seal pups ap­pear to be healthy and do­ing well, ac­cord­ing to Robin­son. Vol­un­teers from the Big Is­land and Ke Kai Ola, the Hawai­ian monk seal hos­pi­tal in Kailua-Kona, have nick­named the pup Manu‘iwa.

Robin­son said the pup on Lanai re­cently weaned from its mother, while the pup on the

Big Is­land is still nurs­ing. Few sur­viv­ing pups have been born on the Big Is­land over the years.

At the same time, NOAA re­cently an­nounced the re­sults of a study that found the Hawai­ian monk seal pop­u­la­tion re­mained sta­ble in 2017, with close to 1,400 seals in the isles. Last year was also a good year for monk seal pups: 161 were counted in the North­west­ern Hawai­ian Is­lands and 34 in the main Hawai­ian isles, in­clud­ing Kaimana, who re­ceived most of the me­dia at­ten­tion af­ter be­ing born on the Waikiki beach she’s named af­ter.

The over­all pop­u­la­tion trend was pos­i­tive, said NOAA, and showed a 2 per­cent an­nual growth rate since 2013. Still, the monk seal pop­u­la­tion re­mains just over one-third of his­toric lev­els from the 1950s, NOAA said, mean­ing more work in re­cov­er­ing the en­dan­gered species re­mains.

Robin­son re­minded the pub­lic to give monk seal moms and pups plenty of space and view them from a safe dis­tance be­cause the for­mer can be very pro­tec­tive. Any seal sight­ings on the shore­line, as well as signs of in­jured seals, tur­tles, dol­phins and whales, can be re­ported to NOAA’s hot­line at 888-256-9840.

COURTESY TRAVIS CRAIG

A monk seal pup named Manu‘iwa was born Feb. 8 on Hawaii is­land. The pup is one of two monk seals born this year so far, ac­cord­ing to doc­u­men­ta­tion by vol­un­teers. The other, also a fe­male, was born Jan. 6 on Lanai.

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