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Hawaiian monk seal in critical condition transferred to Big Island clinic

sick monk seal
Sophie Whoriskey
/
The Marine Mammal Center - NOAA Permi
Adult male Hawaiian monk seal RW22 rests during rehabilitation at The Marine Mammal Center’s hospital in Kailua-Kona, HI. The long-term outlook is unclear for RW22as veterinary experts from the Center start to address the ingested fishing gear as well as confirmed toxoplasmosis diagnosis.

A Hawaiian monk seal found on Oʻahu in critical condition was transported to the Marine Mammal Center in Kailua-Kona for further treatment.

The monk seal — who is known by his flipper tag RW22 or his nickname Kolohe — suffers from fishing gear ingestion and malnutrition.

He also has toxoplasmosis — a parasite hosted in cat feces. The parasite can find its way to the ocean from rainwater runoff.

The U.S. Coast Guard airlifted the seal on a C-130 aircraft.

Dr. Sophie Whoriskey, a Hawaiian monk seal conservation veterinarian at The Marine Mammal Center, says the animals can air travel rather comfortably.

"Fortunately, because they are monk seals, they do spend a fair amount of time hauled out on land. So we’re actually able to transport them in a large crate or carrier. They can be dry comfortably," Whoriskey explained.

RW22 is expected to fully recover in four to six weeks, but the toxoplasmosis parasite may complicate his health.

Cat owners can help Hawaiian monk seals by disposing of cat litter in the trash, and keeping their cats indoors.

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