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The Marine Mammal Center is a nonprofit veterinary hospital, research, and educational center dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of ill and injured marine mammals and the study of their health. Since 1975, the Center has rescued and treated more than 16,500 marine mammals and has accumulated a body of knowledge about marine mammal and ocean health. Through public education about marine mammals, the Center hopes to foster ocean stewardship and conservation. For more information, visit http://www.marinemammalcenter.org/

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Into the Wild

Above, KP2 takes a nap on a beach after his release. Photo: NMFS, NOAA Permit #932-1489-09

We hope the holiday season treated you well. We know The Marine Mammal Center had a nice treat for the new year. KP2, the endangered Hawaiian monk seal that was raised from a neonate in a collaboration between The Marine Mammal Center and NOAA agencies and released last month, has been monitored closely since his reintroduction into the wild to see how he fares in his natural environment, and reports from NOAA during the holiday season indicate that KP2 is faring well so far.

KP2 seems to be adjusting to his newfound freedom, and is exploring further from shore. His satellite tag and sightings confirm he has been heading west, and he has begun socializing with other seals, a great sign! On December 26 KP2 was seen sleeping on a beach. Later that afternoon he entered the water together with another young seal, born in August. Researchers observed the two young seals interacting, mock fighting & mouthing, and rolling around together in the water. It's exactly the kind of behavior that KP2's caretakers want to see, as the goal is to have him identify with and integrate into the Hawaiian monk seal population.

They also want KP2 to see human beings as a threat to stay away from to shield him from human interaction. To that end, on December 27, when KP2 was spotted close to some people on a beach, the group was informed of KP2's delicate status, and they moved to a different area. He was then frightened off with loud noises and returned to the water. It is hoped that these actions will help keep KP2 apprehensive of human beings, just as a healthy seal that had always lived in the wild would be.

So far, KP2 appears to be adjusting very well. He is catching fish and has even strayed out of the receiver range for his satellite tag a few times, which means he is likely getting more comfortable with the area and venturing further from his release site. The initial intensive two week monitoring period has now ended; however, NOAA researchers will continue to check his condition periodically and relay updates. Let's hope his progress continues! As a highly endangered species, KP2's successful reintegration and survival would be a real accomplishment! You can read more and help with the effort to save Hawaiian monk seals here.


martha wilson said...

After several years of being a monthly contributor, I am even prouder than ever to be a part of this wonderful, unselfish group.
I watched as you helped save the young female whale caught in the nets neaR San Francisco and other humanitarian eforts and admire your work with these precious seals.
Thanks again for your work!
Martha Wilson
Brentwood, TN

The Marine Mammal Center said...

Thank you, Martha! We couldn't do any of this without the support of people like you.