Categorized | Environment

Marine Mammal Center fully funded, will open in summer


Sick and injured Hawaiian monk seals will get a second chance at survival thanks to The Marine Mammal Center’s new Hawaiian Monk Seal Hospital, which is dedicated to the rescue and care of this critically endangered species.

Thanks to the Firedoll Foundation and a very generous family foundation as well as hundreds of other donors throughout the world, the hospital is now fully funded and will begin opening to patients this summer.

This $3.2 million facility, named Ke Kai Ola (The Healing Sea), will include two neonate rehabilitation pens and pools, quarantine pen areas, two larger pens and pools for juvenile seals, as well as a medical lab, staff office, patient food preparation kitchen and education pavilion.

The Marine Mammal Center, headquartered in Sausalito, Calif., broke ground on the Hawaiian Monk Seal Hospital Sept. 15, 2012, on property owned by the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority (NELHA) at Keahole Point.

“We are building this hospital to help save a species,” says Dr. Jeff Boehm, executive director at The Marine Mammal Center, which has rescued and provided medical care for more than 18,000 marine mammals along the central and northern California coast since 1975.

“Now that we have the funding in place to complete the construction of our facility, we can focus on cultivating the ongoing support of the community to provide continuous care for this critically endangered and iconic marine mammal species,” he said.

Hawaiian monk seals have been on the decline for decades, and the current population of fewer than 1,100 individuals is declining by 3 to 4 percent annually. Fewer than one in five Hawaiian monk seal pups survive their first year due to threats like entanglement in ocean trash, changes in the food chain and predation.

The Marine Mammal Center will use a strong community volunteer base for rescues of injured and sick seals in and around the Hawaiian Islands and for animal husbandry at the new hospital.

While the Kona-based hospital will not be open to the public (monk seals under our care are ill and critically endangered), the Center will ultimately conduct public outreach programs to provide education about Hawaiian monk seals and conservation efforts.

In its efforts to save this critically endangered species, The Marine Mammal Center is working in collaboration with a number of groups, chief among them NOAA Fisheries, the Hawaiian Monk Seal Recovery Team and the Hawaii Wildlife Fund.

“We’re excited that The Marine Mammal Center has stepped up in such an enormous way, building on the long-standing work they’ve done with colleagues in Hawaii, to help conserve this species,” says Dr. Charles Littnan, lead scientist for NOAA Fisheries Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program. “By providing a state-of-the-art facility, they’ll help us save seals that have all too often been left on the beach to die.”

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