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Planning a visit to Kauai? We regularly add news and information about events, activities, and places to see on The Garden Isle.

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Sheila Heathcote has lived in Hawaii since 1986. She's a published author on the topic of Kauai and the owner of Hale O Nanakai Bed & Breakfast.

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Sunday
Apr252010

Kauai's Endangered Monk Seals

The Hawaiian Monk Seal is the most endangered marine mammal located entirely within U.S. waters.   On Kauai a network of volunteers help guard and protect these seals, while providing information to beach goers and visitors. To learn more see http://www.kauaimonkseal.com

During the 19th and early 20th centuries, sealers, shipwrecked crews, feather hunters and guano diggers killed or so disturbed Hawaiian Monk Seals that their numbers greatly diminished. Military activity during and after World War II disturbed the seals once again. By the mid-1970s, beach counts indicated that there were less than half the number of Hawaiian Monk Seals than were counted in 1957 and 1958.

At birth, the Hawaiian Monk Seals pup is approximately  3 feet long and weighs between 25 and 30 pounds. In the ensuing six weeks, it will grow close to 200 pounds. A pup usually begins swimming with its mother from day one. In larger breeding populations, pups may be exchanged between nursing mothers, where more than one mom/pup pair are in close proximity.

After the six-week nursing period, the mother weans the pup abruptly, abandoning it to resume her own feeding. The weanling pup will generally remain at its birth beach for a month or two. It will slowly begin to range farther out to sea and eventually learn to feed on its own.


FEEDING
Eels, lobsters, octopi, small reef and bottom fish are prey for the Hawaiian Monk Seal. Most of their feeding occurs at depths between 245-300 ft. These seals have occasionally been known to dive as deep as 1640 ft. Newborn seals, or pups, feed only on mother’s milk from birth to about six weeks of age. Nursing mothers do not usually eat during the six-week period.