Mom manages these lava rocks at the ocean’s edge just fine. Pup, on the other hand, sometimes struggles to get over, around and between these road blocks, although she is catching on quickly.
To answer a few questions, we are still betting pup is a female. She won’t be tagged for another couple weeks (after mom weans her) and until then–when scientists get up close and personal with her–we won’t know for sure. At this point, with binoculars and telephoto zoom lenses, we can see her four teats. Like humans, though, males sport teats, too. The real determinant is whether there is a “penile groove.” (I know. I know. But I didn’t name it that.) It’s hard to detect even with binoculars.
And as for whether this particular Hawaiian monk seal pup is extra large for her size, the answer is yes and no. Compared to the pups born in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands–Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, for those of you familiar with the area–our girl is very healthy. The pups there don’t fare as well as ours, I am told. Too, once they are weaned, some actually starve to death. The competition for food is fierce and, unfortunately for the future of these sweet seals, the young ones are not surviving. Food competition. Climate change. Predators. Marine debris. These are all threats. Compared to other monk seals born around Kaua’i, this one may be a tad larger. When she is tagged, we’ll take measurements and compare.