By Thea Johanos
It’s springtime, and Hawaiian monk seal pups are starting to be born across the island chain. The first pup was born on 3/3 at Kure Atoll, located at the far end of the chain in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI). The State of Hawaii team at Kure reports that mom (KI09) and pup are doing well, and that the pup is cute and active.
This week we suddenly had two more pups, both born in the main Hawaiian Islands (R305 pupped on Kaho’olawe on 3/12 and RB12 pupped on O’ahu on 3/13). Both main island pups are in good, out-of-the way locations where they likely will not be disturbed.
There may be other, undiscovered pups, especially as teams are not at most breeding sites in the NWHI. However, a team of NOAA and USFWS researchers departed for the NWHI on 3/14 and we are hoping that they discover pups at French Frigate Shoals and Laysan Island when they arrive. In the meantime, pregnant female seals are busy foraging and laying down fat in preparation for the big day. This fat will sustain the moms for 5-7 weeks of fasting during the nursing period. And, the fat that mothers transfer to their pups in their milk will, in turn, sustain their pups for many months as the pups explore and learn how to find food on their own.