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Sea Life Park has received permission to display these seals from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Marine Fisheries Program, with which we work very closely to ensure that these special animals are cared for in accordance with the strictest guidelines as an endangered species. The Park has assisted endangered Hawaiian monk seals through an important program that brought in underweight or abandoned seals from the wild and rehabilitated them.
These crucial efforts—along with the impact of NOAA’s Hawaiian Monk Seal Recovery Plan and the work of other key agencies coming together to make a difference—are encouraging Monk Seal population growth.
“Lambchop” was a Hawaiian Monk Seal who resided at the park and passed away at age 32, following a sudden decline in her health from age-related kidney disease. Lambchop was brought to the Park extremely emaciated from the French Frigate Shoals in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands in 1987. She was estimated to be about two years of age on her arrival, and was rehabilitated back to health under the Park’s care.
The average life expectancy of a Hawaiian monk seal is 25-30 years. Lambchop was able to live a full life making many significant contributions that are helping the endangered monk seal population.
Over the years, Lambchop was involved in groundbreaking research—including important studies to measure monk seal metabolism and discoveries that would lead to the development of the morbillivirus vaccine currently being utilized on wild-populations. Morbillivirus is widespread and outbreaks of the disease have caused the deaths of tens of thousands of seals worldwide since the 1980’s.
Due to Lambchop having access to 24-hour veterinarian care at the Park, we were able to conduct a cataract surgery resulting in the improvement of Lambchop’s eyesight; and through our daily physical exams, and husbandry training we have recorded that her vision continued to improve.
She was able to benefit from procedures previously unheard of for her species, resulting not only in the improvement of Lambchop’s own quality of life but also breakthroughs in the care possibilities for other monk seals.
Sea Life Park has also offered to permanently care for problematic males (“mobbers”) or any other seal deemed as non-releasable. We continue to partner with researchers in an effort to preserve this species.