No matter what the weather is like at LazyPaw Animal Hospitals in Frisco, sometimes our minds naturally wander to dream vacations in tropical climates. That’s why we’re taking off on a new blog series to tour around the world and explore some incredible animal species. Today, we know readers will squeal for seals!
Seals are usually happiest in freezing waters (think Boston). However, Hawaiian monk seals are true beachcombers, making their home in the tropical waters of the remote northwestern Hawaiian islands. These tiny islands are the smaller of Hawaiian’s arched dots of land in the middle of the ocean, and they’re much less used by humans because they’re so hard to travel to.
Reefs bursting with life offer fish, spiny lobsters, octopuses, and eels. Unfortunately, there is too much competition for food from predatory fish and sharks, making it difficult for young seals to survive.
Monk seals spend most of their time in the 1240 miles of water around the islands, but these Hawaiian water-pups also catch naps on the warm white sand. Locals call them the “Ilio holo I ka uaua” or “dog that runs in rough water.” They are only native to Hawaii and one of only two remaining indigenous mammals on the islands (the other is the hoary bat).
These bathing beauties are between five and seven feet long, weigh 400-600 pounds, and live 25 to 30 years. Seals are so seaworthy they can dive up to 1500 feet! Spending so much time in the water is why scientists don’t know as much about the mammals as they’d like.
Unfortunately, Hawaiian monk seals are one of the most endangered species in the entire world. Their close relatives, the Caribbean monk seals, already went extinct in the 1970s. Scientists believe only about 1300 monk seals are currently still surviving.
Top threats include entanglements in marine debris, habitat loss, human disturbance, fishery interactions, and intentional killings for their beautiful fur.
In an effort to preserve the population, the new Ke Kai Ola Marine Mammal Center recently opened on Big Island. The hospital is one of a very few care facilities for Hawaiian seals, and the only one focused on medical care. The hospital cares for sick and injured monk seals, but it also helps baby seals who are malnourished reach the age of three, when their survival rate goes up to 70 percent.
To help Hawaiian monk seals, see current patients getting care at the seal hospital, and learn more about these fantastic creatures, visit The Marine Mammal Center online. You can also check out the Monk Seal Foundation, which works to protect monk seals and educate and engage the public in their preservation.