Monk seal hospital: grand opening
Ke Kai Ola, the new Hawaiian monk seal hospital in Kona, held its grand opening and blessing on Sept. 2.
The Marine Mammal Center's new, $3.2 million facility, which means the healing sea in Hawaiian, is dedicated to giving sick and injured Hawaiian monk seals a second chance.
Four young, malnourished monk seals — Kulia, Ikaika, Hala‘i and Maka‘ala — were admitted to Ke Kai Ola on July 9 after being rescued from the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. The center's vet experts and trained volunteers cared for the seals until they were healthy enough to return to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Aug. 31.
Previously, malnourished pups like the four were left behind to fend for themselves by scientists, who had no place to take them.
"We built this hospital to save a species," said Jeff Boehm, executive director of The Marine Mammal; Center. "Thenks to funding from the Firedoll Foundation as well as a generous family foundation and hundreds of donors throughout the world, this hospital can now provide life-saving medical care."
The Hawaiian monk seal population hovers at about 1,100, with fewer than one in five pups surviving their first year in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands due to threats like marine debris entanglement, changes in the food chain and predators.
The center has partnered with the NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service to help save the monk seals. It will also offer public outreach programs with the help of community volunteers. Visit www.marinemammalcenter.org to learn more.