Monk seal pup update

Monk seal and pup

Monk seal pup feedingI visited the Big Island’s newest monk seal pup again, a couple of days ago, and I’m happy to report that mother and pup continue to do well. Since my last post about the pup, it’s clearly been packing on the pounds. Equally obvious is the mother’s loss of weight. Also, since that post, the pup has also been identified as female and given a name, Manu’iwa, which is a reference to the great frigatebird.

In these photos the pup is exactly 6 weeks old, so sometime very soon the mother will leave the pup to fend for herself. The top photo shows the two of them, the pup having shed her black baby coat for the more usual monk seal look. At right, Manu’iwa has a feed. She was lying in the water which is why her lower half looks smooth while the dry upper part is raised and lighter. Below, mom heads for the water leaving Manu’iwa barking that she’s still hungry. Bottom, mom leads Manu’iwa out into the water for a swim, part of her ongoing education of the pup so that it will be able to fend for itself.

I should mention that these photos, as with those in the previous post, are taken with a telephoto lens. The area where the seals spend their time is cordoned off with volunteers monitoring the area and providing information to visitors. The volunteers work to minimize human interactions with the seals. If the pup gets used to humans it may seek them out and, at some point, is likely to have an interaction that ends badly – not necessarily for the pup, but for the person involved. This could be a bite or something more serious. If the pup, or any seal, has such encounters, it will likely have to be captured and relocated to the northwest Hawaii islands, which are uninhabited. This would be hard on the seal, faced with new territory and greater competition, and also be a blow to the goal of raising the number of monk seals living permanently around the main Hawaii islands.

Monk seal and pup enter the waterMonk seal and pup swimming

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7 thoughts on “Monk seal pup update

    • The man who heads the local organization that monitors the seals said they were the most affectionate mom and pup combination he’d seen and, in my more limited experience, I’d have to agree with him. After the mom leaves, one or more of the other monk seals that live around the island might stop by and look out for the pup for a while, but in general, they’re very solitary creatures.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Great update, Graham, and glad to hear the good news. I’m also glad to hear they are kept away from human contact and interest. When we were on the island at the black sand beach down south, a sea turtle was enjoying the sand. I took pics but stayed a fair distance, but of course a family with teens walked right up to her and touched her. Grrr!

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    • I try and make myself speak to people when they get too close. A lot of the time, they just don’t think about it even though there are signs all over the place. Not sure I’ll see the mom and pup together again. It depends on when mom leaves. But I do hope to see the pup again before she moves on. So glad they’re doing well.

      Liked by 1 person

    • These two seem particularly close by all accounts. Last week, the mother lost track of the pup and was frantic for about 20 minutes until she tracked it down. It’s quite dramatic to see how much the pup grows as the mother shrinks.

      Liked by 1 person

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