When I first saw this monk seal on the North Kohala coast a couple of days ago, I thought it was IO5. He’s the seal I see most often in this part of the island. But as I got closer, I saw this one was a female. I took photos, including some of the red ID tag. I wasn’t sure if, at that distance, I’d be able to read it, but luckily I could make out ‘A2’ in a couple of photos. There was space after the ‘2’ as if a number had rubbed off, so I wondered if this was RA20, the monk seal who raised pups on a Kona beach in 2018 (here and here) and 2019 (here and here).
I sent the photos to the Big Island Hawaiian monk seal response network, which tracks the movements and welfare of the monk seals. They confirmed this was RA20 and was the first sighting of her since she was released from Ke Kai Ola Hawaiian Monk Seal Hospital after suffering from a bacterial infection. The hospital’s veterinarians think RA20 recently lost a pregnancy and that the infection may have caused, or resulted from, the loss.
The good news is that she certainly appeared healthy and in good shape when I saw her.
For more information about Hawaiian monk seals and Ke Kai Ola Hawaiian Monk Seal Hospital, go to www.marinemammalcenter.org/hawaii.