Our newsletter is back! Hopefully much more frequently!
After the initial flurry of newsletters documenting the two pups born at Po`ipu in the years 2000 and 2001, and one born at Maha`ulepu in 2000, the volunteer program went into a phase with more routine activity, such as putting up signs and roping off seals hauled up and resting on beaches around the island.
Our Maha`ulepu 2000 pup has been on O`ahu for some time. Now three years old, she was first sighted on Ka`ena Point in May 2002, with the most recent confirmed sighting on eastern O`ahu on June 16, 2003. While most HMS are known to remain at their birth island, there obviously are some exceptions.
During the time of the 2000 pupping at Po`ipu Beach, a very young malnourished female hauled up frequently. She subsequently has continued to rest here at Po`ipu. Some of us volunteers call her “The Little Girl”. We have taken a special interest in her as she continues to mature. During the first week in July she showed up with a fish hook in her mouth and disappeared for a brief time. Upon returning, the hook had worked its way out leaving only a small scar. At the time of this writing, she is now molting at Po`ipu Beach.
For the past two years, KMSWP members have been closely involved with an effort to create a full-time governmental coordinator position dealing with our monk seals. The volume of haul-outs and the subsequent interaction with beachgoers certainly warrant full-time attention. Twice, three month temporary contractual periods (Nov. 02-Jan. 03, Jun-Aug.03) were funded by various government agencies and proved hugely successful. As a result, the paperwork to create the job as a full time position (federally funded) has just been approved and signed by Governor Linda Lingle.
We know there have been 10 pups born on the main islands this year: two on Kaua`i, two on the Big Island, four on Moloka`i, and one each on O`ahu and Kaho`olawe All these pups have been born on remote beaches, successfully weaned and tagged. Nine are known to have survived as of this writing.
An adult female came ashore with a fishhook in her mouth on May 13th on a beach in Kapa`a. KMSWP volunteers noticed the hook as they were setting up a seal safety zone and contacted NMFS. A team was put together including a veterinarian, NMFS, DLNR staff, and our program’s volunteers. The seal was captured about 4:30 p.m. on May 14 and a small hook was removed from her lip in the back right corner of her mouth. The seal was examined, tagged, measured, and released.
A pup was born on an inaccessible beach on the Na Pali Coast on February 27, 2003. Blue Dolphin Tours generously donated passage on regularly scheduled trips for volunteers and biologists to monitor the mom-pup pair from offshore on a weekly basis. The pup weaned in mid-April and was tagged and measured by NMFS biologists on April 29. This was a wonderful example of how the community can work together to help the monk seals.
A second pup was born on a remote northeastern beach in late July, weaned in late August and was tagged on September 2. This pup was monitored by the coordinator and the volunteers throughout the nursing period.
Three young seals (two males and a female) converged at Po`ipu Beach on March 25th. They interacted and played with each other in the water close to shore and also swam among the beachgoers for several days. There was a concern that the seals would unwittingly harm someone during their playful antics. KMSWP volunteers contacted NMFS. On March 29-30 the three juvenile seals were examined and tagged. The seals now have flipper tags and a small radio transmitter which allows biologists to identify and track the animals, especially important should they continue to interact with swimmers. It was anticipated that the tagging activity could result in the seals leaving the area, which it did. At least one radio transmitter has come off and the other two will come off during the next molt.
Thirty individual monk seals have been identified on Kaua`i beaches during the past year. This includes 20 individuals identified during the winter 2002/2003 assessment period along with 8 new individuals identified during the summer 2003 assessment. Some of these seals are sighted infrequently and may not be in the Kaua`i area full time. Two others have been identified since.
During the first half of 2003, KMSWP members voted to transform Kaua`i Monk Seal Watch Program to a 501 c/3 organization. Our application for incorporation is currently pending, and that will be followed up by application for tax-exempt status from the IRS. We are all grateful to Hawai`i Wildlife Fund for serving as our financial umbrella over the past years.
Mahalo for your patience,
Kaua`i Monk Seal Watch Program Volunteer Coordinator and Liaison
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