From: Associated Press
Published September 2, 2005 12:00 AM

Endangered Hawaiian Monk Seal Gives Birth

POIPU, Hawaii — There's a new celebrity lazing away the day on the sunny beaches outside Kauai's south shore resorts. An endangered Hawaiian monk seal known as Seal 310 gave birth early Tuesday morning to a pup on the beach in front of Kiahuna Plantation Resort near Poipu.


The mother and baby have been attracting quite a crowd, and Kauai Marine Conservation coordinator Michele "Mimi" Olry was tasked with creating buffer zones to separate the pup from its two-legged admirers.


Olry orchestrated the volunteer efforts at the site, setting up tents and umbrellas for volunteer monitors.


"The resorts have been kind to work with us," she said.


And with schools going into session this week, the job of monk seal monitoring has been made a little quieter, she said.


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Kauai, along with Niihau, is home to most of the 50 or so Hawaiian monk seals sighted by researchers on Hawaii's main islands. Hawaiian monk seals are an endangered species with a population of only about 1,300 living primarily in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.


Olry said the birth caught her by surprise because she had been expecting a birth from another seal known as K02, also more affectionately referred to as "Poipu Mom." That seal was last spotted near the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa in Poipu.


The expectant seal is distinctive for a fish hook embedded close to her mouth, which authorities have decided against treating until she gives birth.


Based on the size of the Poipu pup and the new family's behavior after the birth, Seal 310 is likely a first-time mother, said Tim Robinson, project manager for the Kauai Monk Seal Program.


When pups are born they are about 25 to 30 pounds and a meter long. The pair are constant companions for six weeks as the pup grows to more than 200 pounds.


Once the six weeks is over, the mother quickly weans the pup to pursue her own feeding needs. But Kauai's beaches are very popular with the seals and sometimes mothers chose to stay around for a little while longer, Olry said.


Source: Associated Press


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