The short, lively life of Elua

Gotta get some rest.
Gotta get some rest.
I'm watching out for you.
I’m watching out for you.
Always got to keep an eye on him.
Always got to keep an eye on him.
Mom's quick to get Elua's attention.
Mom’s quick to get Elua’s attention.
On the beach.
On the beach.
Tired out again.
Tired out again.
Elua's not shy about making himself heard either.
Elua’s not shy about making himself heard either.

These photos are from November of last year. Not being on social media or especially well connected, it wasn’t until late November that I heard a monk seal pup had been born at Keokea Beach Park. The pup was born November 2 and was named Elua by the local community.

Elua means ‘two’ or ‘twice’ in Hawaiian. He was given the name because his mother, Waimanu (named after the valley where she was born), had given birth to another pup at the same spot two years previously. That pup was named Keokea, after the park. He died in his first year after swallowing a fishhook, a major hazard for monk seals around the islands.

I first stopped by on November 22 and returned on November 25 with a view to joining the volunteers who take shifts to monitor the pup. The idea is that these volunteers provide information about the pup, and monk seals in general, to people visiting the park and try to ensure that the seals aren’t unduly disturbed.

The general consensus was that Elua was doing very well and seemed to be picking things up fast. There was hope the pup would be ready to leave earlier than Keokea had when he was here. Indeed, Elua did seem livelier and more adventuresome, even at this early stage.

On November 26, Thanksgiving Day, Elua was found dead. My understanding is that a necropsy was unable to determine exactly what happened. I heard the cause was ‘blunt trauma’ resulting in edema (abnormal accumulation of fluid) in the lungs. As far as I know, what caused the ‘blunt trauma’ is unknown.

The loss of any pup is serious because there are so few monk seals. They’re a critically endangered species, with a current population of around 1,100. Most live in the northwestern atolls with about 200 around the main Hawaiian islands. In addition, the Hawaiian monk seal has a very low genetic diversity, which makes it potentially very vulnerable to disease and environmental changes.

For more information about Hawaiian monk seals, go to www.pifsc.noaa.gov/hawaiian_monk_seal/ or www.marinemammalcenter.org/hawaii.

Lunch time at last.
Lunch time at last.

12 thoughts on “The short, lively life of Elua

  1. Pingback: Monk seal calisthenics | Graham's Island

    1. Graham Post author

      It’s not that odd really. The monitoring is mostly to try and prevent people disturbing the mother and pup while it’s young, to give it the best chance of survival. But the truth is, pups have a tough go of it the first year or two, everything from mothers rolling on them to swallowing fishing hooks or encounters with boats. Nature can be tough.

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    1. Graham Post author

      Waimanu, the mother monk seal, had a couple of unlucky years at that location, but hasn’t given birth there again. Not sure whether that’s because she hasn’t had pups or she’s birthed them elsewhere. Hopefully the latter.

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