By Nina Wu
Well, it looks like our Hawaiian monk seals are getting more attention (and funding) from abroad.
The Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund has awarded a $25,000 grant to The Marine Mammal Center in its rescue and rehabilitation efforts, along with ongoing scientific research and community education efforts.
The Marine Mammal Center of Sausalito, Calif. (north of San Francisco, on the other side of Golden Gate Bridge), is in the midst of building a brand-new Hawaiian monk seal health care and education center in Kona. The facility will alo offer marine science training and an education and outreach program.
Construction started last year and is expected to be completed by the end of this year.
"With only 1,100 Hawaiian monk seals left in the world, and a population declining at a rate of 4 percent each year, we must do everything we can to save this species," said Jeff Boehm, executive director of The Marine Mammal Center in a press release. "Building a dedicated rehabilitation hospital in Hawaii and working closely with the local community to inspire monk seal conservation, is a vital part of that effort. The Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund provides essential funds at a critical tim and we are incredibly grateful for their generous support."
The Marine Mammal Center, a 501(c)(3) non-profit, in Sausalito since 1975, has rescued and treated more than 18,000 marine mammals including seals, sea lions and whales.
I'm glad the plight of the Hawaiian monk seal (which remained in obscurity for many years) has captured the heart of a California-based non-profit and a global giant like Disney. Even the New York Times (a long way away from any sighting of a monk seal) published a lengthy story May 12 this year titled "Who Would Kill a Monk Seal?"
Then in late May, Jeff Corwin from Animal Planet came to visit Ho‘ailona (formerly known as KP2) our own resident monk seal at Waikiki Aquarium, who has a story of his own to tell.
In August, National Geographic wrote a story about lead scientist Charles Littnan's crittercam project funded by its Conservation Trust. Littnan is engaging middle and high school students on Molokai to help analyze the hours of video.
Debates continue to broil at home, meanwhile, over whether the monk seals should be transferred to the main Hawaiian islands. Many are migrating to the main isles on their own, but fishermen aren't thrilled about it because of competition for the same fish.
Will all these new attention and funding result in better survival rates for our Hawaiian monk seals? It remains to be seen.
Here's a video about the Marine Mammal Center by Wild Lens (narrated by someone with a very British accent):