Kilo was found orphaned and starving on a privately owned island in Hawai’i but was released back into the wild after 7 months of care at Ke Kai Ola.
Since Kilo’s release back into the wild, researchers at The Marine Mammal Center’s Hawaiian monk seal hospital, Ke Kai Ola, have spotted Kilo on nearby beaches. Both times she was seen, she was playing in shallow, near-shore waters and her sweet little face was covered in sea cucumber guts. This told researchers she was exploring her new home so thoroughly and boldly that she scared the small invertebrates, which causes them to expel their insides in defense. While that’s normal behavior for any young Hawaiian monk seal, it’s cause for celebration in Kilo’s case.
Kilo was the smallest Hawaiian monk seal pup ever admitted to Ke Kai Ola
Kilo was emaciated, dehydrated, and near death when researchers from the NOAA found her orphaned and starving on a privately owned island in the Main Hawaiian Islands. They rescued her and brought her to Ke Kai Ola for rehabilitation.
The hospital’s animal care experts estimated that Kilo was between 3 and 5 weeks old. She weighed 37 pounds, which is close to birth weight for a Hawaiian monk seal. Her weight was just a quarter of what it should have been at that age. Hawaiian monk seals are highly endangered and face many threats. While we can’t know what threat took Kilo’s mother away, we do know that this pup couldn’t have survived on her own.
Kilo wasn’t able to feed herself and wouldn’t have survived without the hospital’s intervention
Unable to feed herself, Kilo was fed fish-mash smoothies until she was able to transition to eating whole fish. It took several months, but thanks to Ke Kai Ola’s animal care experts, Kilo gained 100 pounds and quickly proved that she was strong and feisty enough to compete for her own meals in the wild.
Here she is with her friend Ama’ama, another orphaned Hawaiian monk seal being rehabilitated at Ke Kai Ola, telling her caretakers she’s ready to go home:
Kilo was returned to the Northwest Hawaiian Islands that were her home
Once Ke Kai Ola’s patients are rehabilitated, they work closely with NOAA researchers to ensure every animal returns to a home where they can thrive. In Kilo’s case, that was the Northwest Hawaiian Islands where she was found. She was outfitted with a satellite tag before she was released so her caretakers could continue tracking her progress.
Every animal has a different reaction when they arrive back home and Kilo’s warmed everyone’s hearts. She “bolted out onto the sand, then rolled around and pushed her face and nose into the sand, all while vocalizing quite a bit,” said Dr. Michelle Barbieri, a NOAA veterinarian who works closely with the veterinary team at Ke Kai Ola.
A happy homecoming indeed!
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