Scientists from the National Marine Fisheries Service are heading to Hawaii Island from a mission in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.
They’re bringing back four sick monk seals to be treated at The Marine Mammal Center’s new Hawaiian monk seal hospital in Kailua-Kona.
The $3.2 million facility is called Ke Kai Ola, or The Healing Sea, and was built just to help save this species.
“Up until now, we’ve run into a lot of seals particularly in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands that are starving and that we think are doing to die and we’ve had to turn our backs and walk away from them because we haven’t had the facility to care for them,” said Rachel Sprague, NOAA Fisheries Service.
Scientists say the seals — two yearling females, one female weaned pup and one male weaned pup — are malnourished and would have died if left alone.
Instead, they will be the hospital’s inaugural patients, and will be cared for over the next two months before being returned to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.
Doctors and volunteers will feed them high-protein fish shakes. (Watch the video to see how they do it!)
While the hospital will not be open to the public, the center will ultimately conduct public outreach programs to provide education about Hawaiian monk seals and conservation efforts.
“We built this hospital to help save a species,” says Dr. Shawn Johnson, director of veterinary science at The Marine Mammal Center. “Now that we have opened Ke Kai Ola’s doors to our first patients, we can focus on providing vital care for this critically endangered and iconic marine mammal species.”