One Hawaiian Monk Seal

 

One Hawaiian Monk Seal is Ka’ale. Monachus schauinslandi is the Latin name for the Hawaiian Monk Seal. The ancient Hawaiian name was “llio holo I ka uaua” meaning “dog that runs in rough water.” As chance would have it, while spending a couple of days on the north shore of Oahu, out near Ka’ena Point, awaiting a sunset, Ka’ale was resting on the rough sand in an idyllic cove. Ka’ale is watched over by protective organizations to help ensure people don’t disturb or in any way harm this rare young 3 month old pup.

“The Hawaiian monk seal is one of the most endangered marine mammals in the world, and the rarest seal or sea lion in US waters. Weighing between 375-450 pounds (170-205 kg) and 7-7.5 feet (2.1-2.3 m) in length, females are slightly larger than males. Pups are 35 pounds (16 kg) at birth and 3 feet (1 m) long. Silvery-grey colored backs with lighter creamy coloration on their underside; newborns are black. Additional light patches and red and green tinged coloration from attached algae are common. The back of the animals may become darker with age, especially in males. Monk seals are known to live between 25-30 years.

Hunted to the brink of extinction in the late 19th century, Hawaiian monk seals have been declining since modern surveying. The monk seal population is currently declining at 4% annually and is estimated at fewer than 1,200 individuals. Biologists predict this number will dip below 1,000 in the next 3-4 years, placing this species among the world’s most endangered.”

Shy Hawaiian Monk Seal

“Diet: Fish, cephalopods (such as octopi), and crustaceans make up their diet. While they usually hunt in shallow reefs, they’re known to dive over 900 feet to capture prey. In order to accomplish this, Hawaiian monk seals exhibit bradycardia—their heart rate slows down to about eight times less than the rate on the surface. This reduces the need for oxygen, so the seal can stay down longer.

Tiger shark predation, particularly of young pups, contributes significantly to the dwindling number of Hawaiian monk seals. The bigger threat, though, comes from humans. They are at risk from entanglement in fishing gear, beach disturbance, overfishing, inadequate marine protected areas and no-take zones, invasive species, coral bleaching, canine diseases, ocean acidification, sea level rise, ineffective enforcement of marine resource regulations, and sometimes, intentional killing.

Life History and Reproduction: Breeding occurs offshore. Females give birth to one pup on land in the spring or summer. The pups stay with their mothers for five to seven weeks, during which time they gain over 175 pounds. The mother seal doesn’t eat while nursing and loses up to a third of her body weight. Hawaiian monk seals are one of the few seal species that will foster and nurse another female’s pups. Male monk seals are known to be aggressive enough to kill females of their own species.”

Hawaiian Monk Seal assessing a photorapher


 

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