By Nina Wu
If Kauai Pup 2's story made anything clear, it's that Hawaiian monk seals belong in Hawaii.
In an effort to give Hawaiian monk seals like KP2 a home, the Monk Seal Foundation is spearheading efforts to create "Pu‘uhonua...A Place of Refuge" at Sea Life Park on Oahu. It's a place where the endangered Hawaiian monk seals who cannot return to the wild can find a safe home to live out the rest of their lives.
Rehabilitation and release are not always options, according to foundation president Patrick Wardell , due to critical injuries or other environmental factors. KP2, or Ho‘ailona is one example — the pup seal who became too friendly with the folks on Molokai bounced around several isles and was nursed by humans, but ultimately could not be returned to the wild due to poor eyesight. He eventually ended up in the care of scientist Terrie Williams at a marine mammal lab in Santa Cruz before finding his way back home, where he has since taken up residence at the Waikiki Aquarium.
The Monk Seal Foundation, a non-profit based in Lahaina, Maui, joined forces in March with the Hawaiian Monk Seal Response Team Oahu, united by their same mission of preserving the critically endangered Hawaiian monk seal for future generations.
Kaimalino is another recent example of a non-releasable seal. Wildlife officials removed him from Kure and Midway atolls in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands because he was unnaturally aggressive towards several females and their pups. He was temporarily held at Waikiki Aquarium and now lives in California.