Social Animal

Hawaiian monk seal makes an appearance at the wharf.

By Catherine Cluett

The wharf may be a hot hang-out spot, but one Hawaiian monk seal proved it’s not only humans that enjoy socializing in the sea breeze. Last week, KP2, as the young seal is named, seems to have made Kaunakakai Harbor his temporary new home.

KP2, short for Kauai pup 2, was abandoned by his mother on Kauai when he was less than 24 hours old. He was hand-reared by NOAA biologists and raised in captivity for eight months before his release in Kalaupapa in November. NOAA biologist David Schofield says the nine-month-old seal has circumnavigated the island a couple times and was seen on Lanai a couple weeks ago.

Julie Lopez, a local member of the Hawaiian Monk Seal Response Team, said fisherman remained cooperative even when the seal “hauled up,” or came on shore to sleep, on the boat ramp. On the endangered species list, it is recommended that people stay 150 feet away from Hawaiian monk seals, and it is illegal to disturb them. Seals are naturally curious, and Schofield said KP2 likes hanging out around the wharf because there’s a lot of human activity.

Schofield said he, with volunteers’ help, is trying to keep KP2 wild and not dependant on people. Because of this, he asks that no one feed or approach KP2 or any seal. If you see people in white Monk Seal Response Team shirts approaching the seal, they are attempting to keep him in his wild state by using “displacement techniques” to make him feel uncomfortable in the area without hurting him. Schofield asks that you do not attempt this yourself – it’s only legal when performed by authorized personnel.

Hawaiian monk seals are one of two mammals endemic (originating here and found no where else) to Hawaii. Evidence points to their existence in the Main Hawaiian Islands before humans even arrived, as early as 1400 to 1750 AD.

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