As Seen Through The Eyes Of Hawaiian Monk Seals

An article from the Washington Post caught my attention recently. The headline alone was something I couldn’t not click. Hawaiian Monk Seals are going to have cameras glued to their heads? I had to read more. As I read on I was captivated by a few elements of the story, so here’s a look at it. I hope you enjoy.

Hawaiian Monk Seals: Aqua bandits?

Scientists will be glueing cameras behind the heads of Hawaiian Monk Seals in order to gain insight into their feeding habits. Necessity for this information arose after at least four seals were found killed by humans over the last year.
Unfounded allegations by a small number of local fisherman are blaming the seals for eating all the fish like a “swarm of locusts.” Associating the seal deaths as revenge killings, something needed to be done in order to change this jaded image of these endangered creatures. Fishermen claimed seals were depleting local fisheries, and eating up to 600 pounds of fish per day. An average adult male Monk Seal weighs between 375-500 pounds… Highly unlikely they would eat their weight in fish. This is genesis of the “crittercam” experiment. Gain insight into the feeding habits of Hawaiian Monk Seals. The findings were unexpected… Reading this I thought to myself this is ridiculous, there is no way the endangered hawaiian Monk Seal who’s numbers barely break 200 in the main island chain are causing this much of a problem.
The species number teeters on 1,100 spread throughout the entire Hawaiian archipelago which extends over 1,000 miles, and they’re causing the fisherman trouble? I think not. As a species who was hunted by humans for its fur, we owe it to them to help in recovery to stable and sustainable numbers. And if they want to snag a few fish from a fisherman along the way that’s fine with me.

“Crittercam” shows feeding habits of Hawaiian Monk Seals

The “crittercam” experiment plan was to capture, sedate, and epoxy a tiny camera to the hide of the seal for a point-of-view perspective not found before. Conventional theory suggested the seals hunted in the shallows, but this idea was soon proven wrong. Video shows the seals diving in excess of 100 feet to the underwater plains outside of the atoll reef and flipping up rocks to find eels and fish hiding beneath. Video also shows seals in chase over medium sized tropical fish, showing how seals can get a meal on the run. If there are any aqua bandits, they would have to be the reef sharks of the islands. Footage from the “crittercam” experiment shows sharks as the scavengers of the seals’ catch. Here is a video from the local news highlighting the situation:The “crittercams” are courtesy of the National Geographic society, and the findings will be shown to the community, and hopefully the public image of Hawaiian Monk Seals as aquatic bandits will be changed. Previous footage from Monk Seal studies have shown them sleeping underwater and at depths of 1,600 feet, proving these creatures are much more mysterious than initially expected. Check out the original Washington Post article here. Watch the findings from the “crittercam” experiment at the Monk Seal Foundation’s homepage and see what Hawaiian Monk Seals see. Thank you for reading, and save the seals! Aloha!

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