Yay! Hawaiian monk seal pups are on the up and up

Monk seal on the beach
CC BY 3.0 Mark Sullivan

There’s some good news about the endangered Hawaiian monk seal. Researchers with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are reporting an uptick in the number of baby seals born this year. The Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program counted 121 monk seal pups this year, up from 103 in 2013 and 111 in 2012. Although 18 additional seal pups this year may not seem like many, it’s a step in the right direction.

As the name suggests, the Hawaiian monk seal is only found in the northern islands of Hawaii. They have been classified as a “critically endangered” species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the last step next to being extinct in the wild. The total population in 2007 was estimated to be as low as 1,012 individuals, and today the population is estimated to be around 1,100.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature reports that the main threats to Hawaiian monk seals are food limitations, entanglement in marine debris and predators eating young seals.

According to The Marine Mammal Center, the NOAA researchers are also working to improve the pups' chances of making it to adulthood. The researchers moved some of the young seals from Midway and Kure Atolls, where the chance of survival is about 25 percent, to areas like Laysan Island where the chance of surviving to the age of three years is 60 to 70 percent.

Researchers also took in two severely underweight seal pups, who will be released back into the wild once they regain their strength. They are being cared for at the Ke Kai Ola Seal Hospital and you can see them in the cute clip below:

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