Sunday, June 13, 2004

Captured monk seal
awaits surgery for
swallowed hook

The Hawaiian monk seal airlifted from Kauai to Oahu on Friday was resting quietly yesterday at the Kewalo Research Facility but will require surgery to remove a swallowed fish hook.

A team of veterinarian seal specialists from the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, Calif., will fly to Hawaii to assist veterinarian Robert Braun in removing the hook.

The exact location of the hook inside the seal's body hasn't been determined, Braun said yesterday.

"The hook was not visible in the oral cavity," Braun said. Since the seal needs to be anesthetized to X-ray it and see where the hook is, Braun said veterinarians will be prepared to operate and remove it before they put him under.

"If it's proximate to his mouth, it will be a relatively easier procedure," Braun said. But if the hook has pierced the animal's esophagus, stomach or bowel, the risk and difficulty would be considerably greater. Seals are typically a challenge to anesthetize, he added.

The 20-year old adult male seal, which weighs about 500 pounds, was captured Friday near Waimea, Kauai.

About 15 feet of fishing line and a leader were removed from the animal before he was airlifted to Oahu by the U.S. Coast Guard on Friday.

Marine mammal experts will monitor the seal over the weekend and surgery is expected early this week when the team is assembled.

Officials are still looking for a second hooked monk seal last seen at Poipu a few days ago and are asking the public to call the NOAA Fisheries toll-free 24-hour marine mammal emergency hotline at (888) 256-9840 if the animal is spotted.

A possible third hooked seal on Oahu's North Shore hasn't been confirmed, Bud Antonelis, a National Marine Fisheries Services monk seal researcher, said yesterday.


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