One of the most exciting experiences we had while in Hawaii was meeting baby Hawaiian monk seal Kaimana and her mom Rocky. Although I’ve already seen a lot of seals before in California, this was my very first time to get a closer look of a mom seal nursing her pup. I thought it was really adorable!
Kaimana was born on Waikiki’s Kaimana Beach some six weeks ago before our arrival in Hawaii. According to the news, it was a rare occurrence for a monk seal to give birth on a busy beach, which luckily was just in front of our hotel. Of course, it goes without saying, mom and pup thrilled a lot of tourists, including us, who eagerly watched their every move (from a safe distance and under the constant eye of the NOAA Feds – see the lady in hat next to me).
Reared exclusively on Rocky’s milk, Kaimana has grown quite fast. From a skinny black pup, she grew into a fat, darker miniature of her mom. I noticed that seals have similarities with us, humans. Rocky was very protective of her baby. I saw Rocky and Kaimana disappear in the ocean and both doing a synchronized swim. Then after a time of fun in the water, both resurfaced on the shore, slowly ascending from the surf back together on the sand for a much needed rest. Like any babies, Kaimana stayed very close with her mommy while she (Rocky) kept a watchful eye on her pup.
In the afternoon of our departure, Rocky finished weaning Kaimana and, as predicted by nature, left her on her own. I felt a tinge of sadness when I heard about it, but again, monk seals are not people. They typically rear their pups for five to seven weeks only, and then they move back to the sea to forage and, of course, mate again.
On August 12, Kaimana was swept off to an undisclosed shore by NOAA Officials to continue her natural growth as a wild seal with other seals. This is to protect her from man-made hazards, as well as to give her less interaction and exposure to humans. I’m really glad that I got the chance to meet them before they return to the wild away from human eyes. As I said, it was an unexpected bonus to our Hawaiian adventure. If pressed, we might even have to admit that this once in a life time experience may have stolen the show!
“Sometimes the strenght of motherhood is greater than natural laws” – Barbara Kingsolver