Hopes rise for Hawaiian monk seals This Sept. 15, 2016 file photo shows a Hawaiian monk seal, an endangered species, on a Waikiki beach in Honolulu. Federal wildlife biologists say the population of endangered Hawaiian monk seals has grown 3 percent a year for the past three years. (AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy)
Hopes rise for Hawaiian monk seals
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The population of Hawaiian monk seals has been rising. It has gone up 3 percent a year. It has occurred for the past three years. That is what federal wildlife officials said Jan. 24. Hawaiian monk seals are one of the world's most critically endangered marine mammals.
 
There are now about 1,400 of the seals in the wild. That is according to Charles Littnan. He is lead scientist of the Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program. It is at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
 
"This is phenomenal, hopeful news for the population," Littnan told reporters in Honolulu. "Yet we have a long way to go to recovery."
 
The population has seen growth in the past. That includes the mid-2000s. But Littnan said those were minor blips.
 
Hawaiian monk seals went down in numbers for years. It happened most recently as young seals struggled to compete for food with large fish and sharks. This was in the remote Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. The area is a mostly uninhabited stretch of tiny atolls. It includes Midway.
 
Sharks also recently attacked weaned seals at French Frigate Shoals. It is one of the chain's most pristine atolls.
 
At one point, only one in five juveniles in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands lived to adulthood.
 
Littnan said more young seals are surviving. This is in part because of programs like those that free seals from marine debris. And another that takes malnourished young seals to a Big Island seal hospital to nurse them back to health.
 
Littnan says about 30 percent of Hawaiian monk seals are alive. That is because of the programs, he said.
 
He also credited the rebound to broader environmental changes. One is El Nino. That is a periodic warming of parts of the Pacific. El Nino changes weather globally. El Nino patterns can help boost the food supply for the seals. They eat squid, eels, crab and other marine life.
 
The population in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands is estimated at about 1,100. The population in the Main Hawaiian Islands, home to Honolulu and other cities, is 300. The population in the main islands was growing for many years. But it has leveled out and stabilized, Littnan said.
 
The monk seal population had been declining since the 1950s. Back then, federal authorities counted 3,400 seals on Northwestern Hawaiian Island beaches. Federal officials want to return the population to that level.
 
Littnan cautioned that the population increase could shift radically.
 
"This should be a bright spark, a glimmer of hope, that thing that fuels conservation. It shouldn't breed complacency," he said.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Where are young seals more vulnerable?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (26)
  • charlottep-buh
    2/15/2017 - 09:45 a.m.

    Again ,again ,again! this happens over and over and over again!If we didn't have animal rescuers life would be a huge mistake.It's sad that hawaiian monk seals are dying out to!And even sadder there are only 30% left. COME ON PEOPLE!

  • rylieh-lin
    2/17/2017 - 02:35 p.m.

    Young seals are more vulnerable when they are out in the ocean vs. in a enclosed habitat, because out in the ocean the young seals have lots of predators like sharks ells and other large sea animals. another reason there safer in the enclosed habitat is because they have no predators and they have lots of food. I really enjoyed reading this article.

  • dylanc10-san
    2/22/2017 - 01:08 p.m.

    In the North Pole and there all born in the cold

  • marcob-san
    2/22/2017 - 01:14 p.m.

    Again, again, again! This happens over and over and over again! If we didn't have animal rescuers life would be huge mistakes. It's sad that Hawaiian monk seals are dying out to! And even sadder there are only 30% left. COME ON PEOPLE!

  • chelseyb-san
    2/22/2017 - 01:16 p.m.

    Young seal are having a difficult time. They struggle to defend themselves and find food. Sharks and other creatures can hurt these seals.

  • michellem-san
    2/22/2017 - 01:21 p.m.

    I think they more vulnerable because when they are out ocean and compare in an enclose habitat. Also becuase out in the ocean the young seals have lots of predators like big animals. Another reason there safer in the enclose habitat. It happens most recently as young seals struggles to complet for food.

  • miguele-san
    2/22/2017 - 01:22 p.m.

    Young seals are more vulnerable when there in the ocean. Seals can die in the ocean because there is predators like sharks. So that's why they stay in the safe place where there is food and water.

  • marianav-san
    2/22/2017 - 01:22 p.m.

    Seals are really pretty. They are also really cool. And they are really nice

  • vanessar-san
    2/22/2017 - 01:24 p.m.

    Young seals are more vulnerable when they are out in the ocean vs when there in a enclosed habit.

  • davidf1-san
    2/22/2017 - 01:25 p.m.

    The young seals are vulnerable because the seals are out in the ocean vs. in a enclosed habitat, because out in the ocean the young seals have a lot of predators like sharks and eels.Another one is that seals are safer in the enclosed because they are close to their habitat.Next is that the seals are enclosed and have more food.Lastly is that the seals have predators but the seals are always next to the island.

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