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KP2 Seal Taken from Molokai Yesterday

By Catherine Cluett

KP2, the young Hawaiian monk seal that had made Kaunakakai Wharf his home, was taken from the area by NOAA yesterday morning. He is currently being held at Waikiki Aquarium for a thorough medical exam, according to NOAA biologist David Schofield. Schofield would not say how long KP2 would remain at the aquarium or what the next move might be.

The community has mixed feelings about the seal’s departure. NOAA has discussed relocating KP2 to Ka`ula Rock near Niihau west of Kauai. Karen Holt of the Molokai Community Service Council said she is worried about the seal’s safety.

“The tiger shark population in the Ka'ula area is large and aggressive,” she explained.

Holt said she hopes that NOAA would do enough research to be able to assure those who had come to love KP2 that he would be safe.

But NOAA officials say they have believe KP2 has already survived shark  in his travels around Molokai and Lanai. They say he displays enough “wild” behaviors, like foraging on his own, that show he may still have a chance to live a normal seal’s life if relocated away from people while he is still young. NOAA officials say Niihau has the largest breeding population of Hawaiian monk seals in the Main Hawaiian Islands.

Molokai activist Walter Ritte hoped the seal would remain on Molokai for the education he has brought the community.

“It’s not a problem, it’s an opportunity,” he said.

Volunteers have spent countless hours in the last six months at the wharf monitoring the seal to make sure both he and humans stay safe. While they have come to care deeply about the seal, they said they worried that either KP2 or people would be intentionally or unintentionally injured if he remained in the area.

“For [KP2’s] wellbeing and the safety of the community, we feel [moving him] was the best thing,” said volunteer Julie Lopez. “But it was very emotional for all of us.”

NOAA has not given definite plans for KP2, but as of two weeks ago, relocating him to the Niihau area as well as placing him into captivity at Sea Life Park were still in discussion.

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