The last post ended with the capture and surgery of the young seal F30 . This one starts with her release back in Kauai. Tuesday we received the call asking if we could help with the release by first meeting the Coast Guard plane at the airport then with the actual release back into the ocean. A huge dark-colored Air Force plane landed about the time we were expecting the coast guard plane and our first reaction was…..this must be overkill. Could the have brought the seal back on this plane?
But then the real Coast Guard plane landed with F30 on board. While much smaller than the previous plane, it’s no midget. Four turboprop jets power the plane – the Coast Guard flies these flights as training missions. So the seals get a special chauffeured experience!
Jamie, Charlie and Barry were escorted through the gate with the pickup truck to the back of the (very noisy) plane. The back end of the plane lowered we could see the crate, and Jamie backed up to load her onto the truck bed. This is a ‘hot stop’, meaning that the plane does not shut down during the unloading process. This is because re-starting the engines and going through all of the procedural checks takes a half hour, so they keep the engines running. This makes for an exciting few minutes, as the air blast and heat from the engines is overwhelming. Not to mention the engine noise!
F30 didn’t seem too happy….was a little agitated. Of course she has no idea what’s happening to her, being trapped in a metal cage with lots of people surrounding her. At least she was de-hooked, so was not suffering from the hook lodged in the throat.
We all drove down to Lydgate Park on the east shore for the release. As soon as Jamie backed the truck onto the beach F30 smelled the ocean, and came to life. She was jumping in her cage, eager to get back into her home. 6 of us lifted the crate onto the sand and two of us pulled the gate to let her out. In no time, she had made her way across the beach and into the water.
Note in this picture that F30 is charging out of the cage as we’re still lifting the gate.
I must confess to a bit of happy emotion (a lump in my throat) to see her back in her home territory. Note the tracking device that was put on her back so that she could be followed during her recovery process.
More description of the hook removal procedure is in the Monk Seal Research site: link below.
The rest of the two weeks were very busy, seals most every day, its amazing to how many visitors we have right now. Note the picture, can you guess where the seal is?
When seals appear the crowds do too, sometimes blocking ingress. But if a turtle appears on the other side, everyone rushes over, often keeping it from coming ashore.
W06 hauled out on Poipu, zonked out and suddenly, a gust of wind blew a hat into the zone. Too bad, we couldn’t go after it, much to the delight of the spectators. W06 nosed it and then went to sleep next to it…..eventually she put her head on it and a wave covered it, so-long straw hat.
We also welcomed a new pup, PK3. Her mother appeared a couple of days before the birth, having swum over from Oahu. I got a chance to go down and take a peek. Actually more than a peek, I took a new volunteer to see it and pup sat for 3 hours. Delightful!
Pup was entertaining itself…..and us. The pup was only 4 days old when I took this picture.
PK1 is weaned now, we still don’t know the sex because it was born on an isolated beach on the Na Pali coast. He/she is a fat little bugger and should thrive. Check out this video of PK1 taken by a local diver/photographer. click here. Note in the video how thin K30 looks, her shoulder blades are sticking out. She has been seen in Princeville since she left and should start putting weight on again Note too: youngsters love to play with sticks.
PK2 will be weaned soon also, she’s also pretty fat. This time of the year is really fun for seal watching.
Meanwhile, back at Poipu, G22 has reappeared. He is the yearling son of RO22, who is PK2’s mother too. Note how green G22 is, he is getting near his molt, when he will shed all his skin, and come out spanking clean as a whistle. Meanwhile, he looks quite scuzzy.
Jamie came down to the beach, and vaccinated him for the moribilli virus. This is related to distemper in canines, and has the potential to devastate the seal population. The vaccination program has just started, and is the only vaccination program in marine mammals in the world. Even though we were only spectators for this, it’s amazing to be a small part of this.