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You are here: /main/research/NOWRAMP 2002/features/seal twins


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Creature Feature - Monk Seal Twins at French Frigate Shoals
Birth Announcement
Posted by Ann Bell Hudgins, education team member, US Fish and Wildlife Service

Monk seal twin pups at French Frigate Shoals.  Photo by Ann Bell Hudgins.National Marine Fisheries Service, (NMFS) field camp leader, Suzanne Canja stationed at Tern Island proudly announced the birth of the first Hawaiian monk seal twins ever documented in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. The twin seals were born in June of 2002 on East Island in French Frigate Shoals. (Photo credit: Suzanne Canja/NMFS)

Upon birth, monk seals weigh in at 25 to 30 lbs. and within six weeks they weigh in at 110 to 175 lbs. In comparison to humans, imagine going from the weight of a 4-year-old child to the average weight of an adult male in only six weeks! The mother monk seal does not eat anything during this critical period. What she needs is quiet undisturbed rest so she can feed and care for her young.

Currently pups are usually weaned in good to above average condition but the greatest challenge occurs during the post weaning period when pups begin to learn how and where to forage. Reduced prey availability is believed to be one factor that has contributed to poor juvenile survival over the last decade. Additionally, adult male aggression, shark predation and entanglement in marine debris also contribute to the mortality of young monk seals.

Scientists used hair bleach to give identifying "highlights" to the twin pups at French Frigate Shoals. One of the twin pups unfortunately died from a shark bite despite efforts at one point to help the pup find its mother when it seemed to have lost its way.

Monk seal twin pups at French Frigate Shoals.  Photo by Ann Bell Hudgins.Pregnant monk seals prefer giving birth on beaches with adjoining shallow waters. French Frigate Shoals is a massive shoal area fringed with coral reefs which helps to protect monk seal pups from their most threatening natural predators, Galapagos and Tiger sharks. NOAA's effort to clean up tons of marine debris, the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service's actions toward implementing protective habitat measures, and NMFS research program contribute to making this a safe home to the 350 out of 1400 monk seals in existence. (Photo Credit: Brenda Becker/NMFS)

To see the world from a monk seal's point of view go to the Ocean Explorer website for a Monk Seal Cam.

Suzanne CanjaInterviews with Suzanne Canja, NMFS employee stationed on Tern Island
Marine Mammals of the World
NWHI EE Outreach Program Document

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