NOAA officials indicate they are planning to move Koki from his home in Hana in the very near future. They believe he will become "to friendly" and needs to be taken to a different environment. The person to contact if you have concerns on this matter is David Schofield.

     T. David Schofield, M.Sc.
     Interim Hawaiian Monk Seal Recovery Coordinator
     Marine Mammal Response Network Coordinator
     1601 Kapiolani Blvd, Suite 1110
     Honolulu, HI 96814

     Cell 808-721-5343
     Office 808-944-2269
     Fax: 808-944-2141

Dr. Leisure has been documenting the growth and development of Koki the monk seal since he was ten days old. He has found that existing reports in the literature and by  NOAA do not do justice to the care and attention rendered by mother in caring for her young. In spite of being made the center of attention by well meaning NOAA volunteers she worked with the pup daily to develop the skills necessary for survival. She was in the water daily apparently teaching the youngster the fine points of food gathering and swimming. Even after she weaned the pup she returned periodically to pay visits. She has been observed to watch from a distance and then move on. Other times she makes contact with her son and spends a few hours before departing.

Koki is in an environment he understands. One where he can find food along with  a relatively safe and secure hauling out area.

Koki's most traumatic experience must have been being tagged. Four NOAA personnel jumped him December 7, 2009 and placed tags RA 26 on him.

Past relocations of "friendly seals" of which Dr. Leisure is aware appear to have resulted in the death of the individual relocated.


(video embedded down the page)

Our story begins weeks before in Hana, Maui. Several people saw a large Monk Seal hauling out at Koki beach just south and east of Hana, Hawaii. The seal was identified as RO 15 by NOAA personnel. She was not identified by her tag but rather by her appearance. Her body is scarred by a number of cookie cutter shark marks. Her tag had been off for some time but the scars made her easy to identify.

The NOAA files indicate that this seal had been on the Big Island, as the island of Hawaii is often called to differentiate it from the island state.

Mother was believed to be about twelve years old. She is believed to have birthed seven pups in the viscidity of the North Kohala Lighthouse. Thus she is often referred to as the "Light House Mom."  The pup born on Maui was her first for the island.

Monk seals have a gestation period of eleven months. What I had read and learned over the last few years regarding the birthing and rearing process was that much happened in a period of five to six weeks. I had heard this was a very critical time for the pup. Most any interference with the nursing mother would result in the pup being abandoned. I was told that the mother would not leave the pup and go into the water. That if she did go to ocean she would not be back.

I was told that the mother would double her body weight in the months before birth. That she would nurse the baby for the time period and not eat herself. The pup would weight about twenty-six pounds at birth. In the weeks to follow it would grow to a weight of a hundred and sixty pounds. In that period mother would shrink back to her former body weight and photos I had seen suggested such a severe weight reduction that her ribs were exposed.

At the end of the time period mother would wean the pup by swimming away and leaving the pup on its own to figure things out and sink or swim.

I have to say my knowledge of mammals raising their young garnered over my life time made this scenario rather hard to swallow. Yet this is the gist of what I was being told by the literature and people I believed to be more knowledgeable than I on the subject matter.

When I heard of the birth I thought about making the trek over to Hana to see first hand what happened. I had not been to Hana for years and did not relish the drive. Furthermore I was contacted about performing a wedding on the day of the birth which was moved to the following week. My commitment to the wedding precluded me getting Hana until the pup was ten days old on October 19, 2009.

Following is a sequence of videos taken every five days beginning October 19, 24, 29, November 8, 13, 18, 23 and ? (I missed November 3 because of fuel pump failure in my truck.)

When time permits I hope to develop a more complete description of events. For now I will let the videos do the talking. Aloha Dr. L

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