When we arrived on Kauai three days late (another story altogether) Bob and I rushed to Mahaulepu beach to see if the monk seal pup was still there (see November 11 blog for pics of the pup at two days). It had been over six weeks since the little fellow was born and we knew that monk seals are weaned after 5-7 weeks. We were not very optimistic.
Still, it was worth a shot. As we neared the location where we had last seen the seals we noticed that the beach was littered with posts and netting used to keep humans away from them. It looked like someone had made quite an effort to move the barrier as the seals became more active. There was even a makeshift wooden structure to keep the sun off the seals. But we did not see the seals. Even more alarming we did not see the human guards that had been stationed nearby to make sure that the barrier was respected.
We walked along the beach thinking we had missed them when we noticed that one of the pieces of driftwood was not, in fact, driftwood. It was the seal pup. It was much larger than before and looked like it had grown from 25 to 200 pounds as expected. Its back and top of its head were still black as pups are when they are born but its underside had turned a beautiful silver color.
The mother was nowhere in sight. We assumed that she had left only recently as those who look after the monk seals make a practice of tagging and moving the pup after he has been left on his own. He didn’t look too happy about being abandoned.
Images: the top image is a picture of the section of the beach where the seals hung out the last six weeks, the others are pictures of the adolescent seal. All taken December 2008.