Monk seal recovering after eye removal surgery

R1KU (Photo: NOAA)
R1KU (Photo: NOAA)
Video: Courtesy NOAA

A young Hawaiian monk seal is resting comfortably after undergoing surgery Wednesday to remove her severely infected eye.

In January, the Robinson family on Niihau found a female seal, named R1KU, with an infected eye. A research team from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration was allowed onto the privately owned island to assess the seal and give her antibiotics.

Last month, the seal was spotted on Kauai and her eye was much worse, so she was flown to the NOAA Fisheries facility on Ford Island for observation and treatment. Staff and veterinarians administered around-the-clock care and determined that surgery was needed to give her the best chance at survival.

The procedure was conducted Wednesday at Honolulu Zoo by a board-certified veterinary surgeon.

“Her other eye is visual and she’s showing right now that she’s able to eat fish in her pool,” said Dr. Michelle Barbieri, Marine Mammal Center veterinarian. “We have seen plenty of seals in the wild that have eye injuries and have thrived in the wild.”

Experts hope to release R1KU back in to the wild once she’s recovered.

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