By Mary Vorsino
The first Hawaiian monk seal successfully raised from birth in captivity was diagnosed with cataracts after being plucked from Kaunakakai Harbor on Friday, which means he won’t be going back to the wild.
It’s rare to see cataracts in a seal so young.
At under 2 years old, the seal — called KP2 — is still considered an adolescent.
The disappointing development, announced yesterday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, comes as scientists are scrambling to learn more about the endangered Hawaiian monk seal in hopes of stabilizing the population. Today, there are only 1,100 of the seals in the wild. And the population is declining by 4 percent annually.
The population would have to be at 2,900 seals for 20 years to be taken off the endangered species list.
“Every individual is important to the population,” said David Schofield, NOAA marine mammal response coordinator.