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.