From the looks of this picture that I took yesterday on a remote north shore Kauai beach, this Hawaiian monk seal pup will only be snuggling with his mother for another day or two.
That’s because mom is starving. Or, at least, really, really hungry. This Hawaiian monk seal mother (known as H58 to scientists or “Rocky” to the rest of us folks), hasn’t had a decent meal since she hauled her heavy body out of the surf one Thursday evening 5 weeks ago to give birth to her son. Since then, Rocky has slowly and steadily dropped a few dress sizes, as she’s served as a seal milk dispensary. Her pup, on the other hand, has ballooned up in size. He’s a little porker.
To see the drastic body change, watch this slide show that I created from images taken during the pup’s first week of life—keep in mind the last few images here were taken a mere 4 weeks ago.
Last year, Rocky weaned her female offspring—named Kaikoa or A00/A01 and known as "Sunrise Seal" on this blog until the time she was officially named—when the Hawaiian monk seal pup was 5 weeks and 3 days. A few days after that, Rocky emerged out of the sea on Oahu, where she likes to live her adult life. Seals, like so many other animals, have a built-in GPS device that allow them to navigate the undersea world with the greatest of ease—way easier than I can navigate the one-way streets of Waikiki, even with the help of Google maps and my iPhone.
Size isn’t the only change in the Hawaiian monk seal pup here. It’s hard to tell from these photographs, but the color of his coat is starting to change. He’s born black as coal, but in the next couple weeks, his puppy fur will be completely replaced with a cream (belly) and silver (back) color combination. His adult fur has already started to push through on his nose. (Or would that be called his “snout”? I am sure there’s a scientific name for that part of his anatomy; for now, let’s go with “mouth”!)
Once mom weans the little guy, a team of scientists will swoop in and tag him. Then, he’ll have his official name. About then, we’ll also give him a more human-friendly name. Stay tuned.
For more on Hawaiian monk seals, this link will give you a few hours of reading material.