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Rescued monk seals recover at Big Island animal hospital

October 2, 2018

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii (AP) — Two Hawaiian monk seal pups found malnourished on Laysan Island are recovering at an animal hospital on the Big Island.

A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration team surveying the endangered monk seal populations last month in the northwestern Hawaiian Islands found the male and female pups were undersized and underweight.

The recently weaned pups named Akulikuli and Maiapilo were expected in mid-September at Ke Kai Ola, the Marine Mammal Center hospital in Kailua-Kona, but their arrival was delayed by Hurricane Olivia, officials said. The NOAA research vessel Oscar Elton Sette was transporting the pups, but sought shelter in Pearl Harbor as the hurricane approached Hawaii.

“Both of these pups have had quite a harrowing journey due to Hurricane Olivia before they arrived at the hospital,” said Claire Simeone, Ke Kai Ola hospital manager. “We are grateful to have many partners who reacted quickly to handle this unique situation and give these pups a second chance at life.”

The team rescued the pups amid fears that they wouldn’t survive the winter. About 1,400 Hawaiian monk seals are estimated to be in the wild.

Akulikuli had a few lacerations on his face and a small ulcer on the roof of his mouth. He weighs about 50 pounds (23 kilograms), making him “small but vocal,” said Megan McGinnis, the hospital’s animal care manager. Maiapilo weighs about 70 pounds (32 kilograms), and she has been “feisty from the start,” McGinnis said.

“Both patients are being tube fed a fish-mash smoothie three times a day to help them get the vital nutrients they need to regain their health,” McGinnis said.

The pups are socializing with Sole and RK58, two male pups undergoing rehabilitation at the hospital.

“They’re really having a fun time, swimming around and investigating each other,” Simeone said.

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