Feature - Monk Seal Twins at French Frigate Shoals
Posted by Ann Bell Hudgins, education team member, US Fish
and Wildlife Service
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)
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.
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.
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 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:
see the world from a monk seal's point of view go to the
Explorer website for a Monk Seal Cam.
with Suzanne Canja, NMFS employee stationed on Tern Island
Marine Mammals of the World
NWHI EE Outreach Program Document