Prematurely weaned Hawaiian monk seals improve in Kona

Photos by Julie Steelman
Photo: Julie Steelman

Two prematurely weaned monk seal pups that had to be brought back to The Marine Mammal Center’s Ke Kai Ola monk seal hospital in Kona are doing much better.

Pearl and Hermes — named after the atoll they were found on — were transported from the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands last month after their mom weaned them too soon.

They were brought back on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s ship, Hi‘ialakai.

Officials say they were about three to four weeks old at the time and if left on their own, they would have died.

“Because they were prematurely weaned, they still have their black coats,” said operations manager Deb Wickham. “These two pups were at a good condition, but they weren’t big enough or nutritionally sound enough to be left up at Pearl Hermes… They should have been basically twice the size that they were.”

Pearl and Hermes started eating fish last week which, according to Wickham, is a major sign of improvement “because when they first come in, we have to tube feed them and get them stable, and then we start offering them fish.”

Researchers hope to get the seals big enough and strong enough so they can return home.

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