Some years ago, a young monk seal female birthed a pup on a remote Kaua`i beach. Unfortunately, she showed no interest in her pup and abandoned it. This was before Ke Kai Ola, the monk seal hospital, was built, and the emaciated pup didn’t survive. Unfortunately, the same scenario repeated itself the next year. This time, scientists were waiting for her. When, again, RK22 ignored her pup, it was taken into captivity and raised. There was still no Ke Kai Ola at this point, so raising an endangered Hawaiian monk seal from practically day one was more than a bit of a challenge. The end result, though, is the pup, now called Ho`ailona, lives at the Waikiki Aquarium where he gets lots of attention and plenty of fish.
But his mom was still living in the wild. And, presumably, still producing pups. A couple years went by before she popped up pregnant again. This time, something had changed, and she stuck around. She’s raised four pups in the past four years.
Here is RK22 bonding with the pup she gave birth to earlier this year. She’s turned into a good and protective mom, chasing off visiting males whenever they appear. (The males mostly ignore pup and annoy mom, letting her know they’re ready when she goes into estrus again.)
I submitted this photo to the annual Nature Conservancy photo contest. Last year, they received over 17,000 entries. This year, I made their Top 100 list, and I’d love for you to vote for this photo as your favorite. You’ll have to scroll down and click “load more” a few times. In doing so, you’ll see some great photographs. Many much better than mine. But I’d appreciate your support of monk seals if you just admire the other photographs and vote for mine! (By the way, the voting is best done from a computer. Not a mobile device. I know: annoying.)
Oh, and you can vote every day. Hint. Hint.