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 (27)
  • anahir-san
    2/22/2017 - 01:34 p.m.

    There are about 1,400 seals in the wild. 30 percent of the monks seals are alive.they eat squid,eels,crabs and other marine animals.this should be a bright spark.the monk seals population has been declining since the 1950s.

  • amayah-san
    2/22/2017 - 01:36 p.m.

    They are weak because they are small and don't produce very quickly nor often. Also, they venture off so they could find food to eat but they don't have their parents to train them to become strong. But if they find food they won't know what to do or how they should hunt, and sometimes sharks come or other creatures they don't like come and pick a fight and they are most likely to not survive.

  • miah-san
    2/22/2017 - 01:36 p.m.

    Young seals are more vulnerable in the sea because they like to swim in the sea. Young seals are more vulnerable in the sea because they get to swin around in the sea. Young seals are more vulnerable in the sea because they love to swim in the sea with other animals.

  • mariav-san
    2/22/2017 - 01:41 p.m.

    The things the .one .the.

  • brittanym-san
    2/22/2017 - 01:43 p.m.

    The seals are more valuable than the moms. Reason number one they are cute. Reason number two there younger and less dangerous. Reason number three the can be used as zoo pets in a younger age. Reason number four it's better to see a seal grow up than grow old.

  • sarynea-san
    2/22/2017 - 01:44 p.m.

    Only there are 1,400 in the world. There live some where else. Of the other side. Where there is a butiful please

  • diegos1-san
    2/23/2017 - 12:33 p.m.

    They are not surviving. they are not a lot of them in hawai.they are not mor than 1,000. Thay a re going extinct.thay are not hurtful.

  • isaach3-san
    2/23/2017 - 12:36 p.m.

    Young seals are more vulnerable when they are out in the ocean Vs.in a encoded habitat, because out in the ocean the young seals have lots of predators like sharks ells and other large sea animals.

  • arelyd-san
    2/23/2017 - 12:39 p.m.

    Younger seals are more valuable when they are out in the ocean vs. ina enclosed habit, because out in the ocean the younger seals have a lot of pretadators like sharks.

  • austins2-san
    2/23/2017 - 12:52 p.m.

    I think that they would do better than that. I think that they would make us happy. I think that they would make us live.

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