Hawaiian monk seal pup born on Lei Day weaned, relocated to remote O‘ahu shoreline

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Hawaiian monk seal pup Paʻaki on Kaimana Beach, Waikīkī. Credit: Hawaiʻi Marine Animal Response (NOAA Fisheries Permit #24359)

A Hawaiian monk seal born on O‘ahu six weeks ago is now weaned from its mother, RK96, also known as Kaiwi.

The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration announced this morning that Lei Day pup PO5, named Pa‘aki, is a female, which officials say is hopeful news for the continued Hawaiian monk seal population recovery.

Since the pup’s birth, Hawaiʻi Marine Animal Response and the Hawaiʻi Department of Land and Natural Resources have been monitoring the mother and newborn pair. HMAR reported Kaiwi separated from Paʻaki on June 9.


Monitoring continued through June 10 to confirm the weaning.

“This is an important milestone for Paʻaki and mother RK96 (Kaiwi) because it marks the end of their time together during the nursing period,” NOAA officials stated. “Kaiwi may return to Kaimana Beach after weaning Paʻaki, but now mom and pup are both independent seals.”

To avoid the pup becoming accustomed to human interactions, Pa‘aki will be relocated to a more remote Oʻahu shoreline, as marine biologists have done with previous Waikīkī-born pups. The beach will remain undisclosed.


“It will allow Paʻaki to grow up wild rather than in the crowds of beachgoers in Waikīkī,” NOAA stated.

Throughout the nursing period, NOAA explains, a mother monk seal will not leave her pup to forage for food. Instead, she will stay with her pup and fast until she has used up her energy reserves.

At this point, the mother will abruptly wean the pup. The pup then becomes an independent seal and must learn to survive independently. Having lost substantial body mass, the mother will go out to forage again.


Over the next 1–3 months, she will regain her weight, molt, and become receptive for the next pregnancy.

NOAA’s biggest concern with Pa‘aki is habituation as she leaves a year-round busy environment like Kaimana Beach.

“A young seal that receives positive interactions from people—such as attention, play, or being fed—will continue to seek out humans for these interactions,” NOAA stated. “Once the seal grows and matures, that behavior can be a human safety risk.”

The seal may rely on people for interactions—rather than other seals in the wild. The seal may also fail to develop food-foraging skills—to the point of depending on people for food or becoming aggressive toward people for food.

In general, young Hawaiian monk seals face threats to their survival regardless of where they grow up. These threats include entanglement or ingestion of fishing gear, dogs roaming off-leash, intentional harm, and diseases, like toxoplasmosis.

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