Hawaiian Monk Seal Receiving Care in Kona
A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration monk seal survey of Ni’ihau on Monday turned up a young female Hawaiian monk seal pup between three to five weeks old who was emaciated and in need of help.
The owners of Ni’ihau, the Robinson family, transported the pup, whom they named Kilo, to Kauai via helicopter on Monday. Kilo, who was destined for the Ke Kai Ola rehabilitation facility in Kona received care to reach a stabilized level by Dr. Michelle Barbieri, a veterinarian for the NOAA Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program and The Marine Mammal Center.
“It’s a really good thing that the team was there to find this seal. She was in dire need of supportive care and would not have made it much longer in the wild,” said Barnieri.
Kilo was severely dehydrated and malnourished when she was found.
“She was extremely emaciated. You could see her hip bones and her vertebra. That was just a few days ago. Even now, she’s at birth rate. She’s at 17 kilos and three to five weeks old. She probably got some of her mom’s milk but we aren’t sure what happened,” said Deb Wickham, Operations Director at Ke Kai Ola. “She should be near a couple hundred pounds but she’s really only about 35 pounds, just a quarter of what she should be.”
The United States Coast Guard assisted in transporting Kilo aboard the HC-130 Hercules airplane from the Coast Guard Air Station Barber Point on Oahu to the Kona facility on Tuesday.
Wickham said Thursday afternoon that Kilo’s behavior had already begun to improve and change.
“She is so scrawny right now but we are optimistic. Her attitude has changed, which is great. She was very vocal when she came in, but now she is getting sassy, just like her name. We were told Kilo means sassy,” said Wickham.
Kilo is currently being fed through a stomach tube as her teeth are not quite broken through. In a matter of weeks, the facility is hopeful that she will eat on her own and make her way to a full recovery before being released back into the wild, potentially within the next three to five months.
Wickham said Kilo will continue to be tube fed until her teeth are fully grown in, at which point she’ll begin to be offered fish in her water. “I’m confident she will take it on her own.”
With less than 1,100 Hawaiian Monk Seals left in Hawai’i, Wickham emphasized the importance of the community reporting sick or injured animals.
If someone saw an animal and it was sick or injured, or even if they just see it, we’d like people to call so we know what’s going on with the animals, here especially since we don’t have very many on the Big Island,” Wickham noted.
The response team’s hotline is (808) 987-0765.
Ke Kai Ola recently celebrated its one-year anniversary of operations and the facility has rehabilitated eight seals, six of whom have already been released back into the wild and another two who will head back to the wild next week.