|Just waking up after a nap. Mom is large and silver, and the pup, Holokai is dark.|
My work with the foundation actually began the first day I was on the island. Irene and I drove up to the north shore, to Turtle Bay Resort, where a large section of coastline is monitored for seals. There, the volunteer coordinator, Dana, gave an orientation presentation to all new volunteers, giving us factual information about the Monk Seals, threats to the population, and an explanation of our volunteer responsibilities.
|Dana orients all of us new volunteers on the Monk Seal Foundation's mission.|
After a thorough introduction, Irene and I went about the rest of our trip, but I returned and had my first official day volunteering yesterday. Most of what we do is try to educate passers-by. People are usually so excited to see the seals that they go too close, or even try interacting with them. We try to help people understand why we ask them to stay away, and just generally raise awareness about this critically endangered species.
|As often as possible we also try to engage with local fishermen. Even giving out free |
barbless hooks to try to minimize the number of hooking incidents for local seals.
|Educating tourists running on the beach.|
|Writing notes about nursing and napping schedules. Much like any new mom!|
|This is La'akea. She is actually the pup's auntie!|
|Here is Umalea and her pup Holokai in their cove.|
The exciting part of this, is that the foundation watched Uma'lea grow up! Her mom, Honey GIrl, has had 10 girls on this same coastline. Now Uma'lea has turned five, and is herself having her first pup in the same cover where she herself was born! It's wonderful to watch them (from 150' back). Uma'lea is an incredibly sweet and affectionate mother. More than any other seal mom they have seen, she is outwardly affectionate with the pup, as seen here putting her flipper around him, pulling him to her and snuggling.
|Mom is often seen with her flipper around her pup. |
A behavior unique to this first-time mother.
|Mom is teaching her pup to go out into the open water for the first time, leaving the security of the|
pool where he has been raised. Here she is encouraging him across the rock shelf out into the sea.
|Mom is calling the pup to come out, but he's not eager.|
|The pup's first venture out into open water!|
|The pup needed a rest afterwards. All the exertion and excitement really took a lot out of him! |
But look at how satisfied mom looks!
|Pup playing with mom: yelping, nipping, poking at her.|
Once my shift was over, I made my way back to the hostel, tired from the sun and the 15 mile round trip on my bike. I was looking forward to getting in the water and relaxing by the sea. But of course, no sooner had I gotten to the beach, than I was already back at work. A large female seal came out to bask on the beach across from where I am staying! A local had called the hotline, and someone from the response team came out, putting up signs to keep people away from the seal... not everyone paid attention, though. So I stayed nearby, answering questions, and doing what I could to explain what was going on. I fielded questions like: "Is the seal ok?" "Do we need to help it get back in the water?" "Is this seal always here like an attraction?" "Is he supposed to be here? I thought seals liked cold water." I answered what I could, and hoped I was doing right by the seal.