Monk Seal Transferred from O‘ahu to Hawai‘i Island Rehabilitation Facility
A monk seal was successfully transferred from Oʻahu to a rehabilitation facility on Hawaiʻi Island last week. The transport was conducted by personnel with the Coast Guard 14th District, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and The Marine Mammal Center.
The monk seal, Pōhaku, was rescued by federal wildlife officials in January near Ko Olina. She was diagnosed and is being treated for toxoplasmosis, a disease that results from infection with the Toxoplasma gondii parasite, one of the world’s most common parasites.
The adult female seal was taken to the Marine Mammal Center’s Ke Kai Ola monk seal rehabilitation facility on Hawaiʻi Island for long-term care.
“Living marine resources is one of our 11 statutory missions and it’s a fulfilling one,” said Maile Norman, marine resource specialist, Coast Guard 14th District. “Protecting the Hawaiian Monk Seal population through our partnership with NOAA provides significant benefits to national stewardship programs and provides the Coast Guard a unique opportunity to play a part in the recovery of this critically endangered species.”
According to the Coast Guard, this 13-year collaboration yielded the successful rehabilitation and release of more than 50 Hawaiian monk seals across the archipelago, including the remote and uninhabited Northwestern Hawaii Islands. The Coast Guard transports six marine mammals on average each year in conjunction with other missions such as necessary training flights.
Megan McGinnis, The Marine Mammal Center’s Animal Care Program Manager at Ke Kai Ola said, “We are grateful to the US Coast Guard, who reacted quickly to handle this unique situation and helped our experts give this animal a second chance at life.”
The most recent annual population assessment shows that the Hawaiian monk seal, bucking past trends, has increased in numbers by three percent annually for the past three years. The population is now estimated to be around 1,400 seals—about 1,100 seals in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and 300 seals in the main Hawaiian Islands.
To report monk seal sightings, Email NOAA at: [email protected]