Hawaiian Monk Seal
December 9, 2018
It is with heavy hearts that our ohana shares our beloved Lambchop has passed away today (December 9, 2018) at Sea Life Park Hawaii at age 32 from age-related kidney disease. Despite preventative medical care, her health declined suddenly. As one of the oldest known Hawaiian monk seals, Lambchop was part of our ohana here at the park and a favorite among our volunteers and guests. All of us at Sea Life Park are deeply saddened by this loss, it was an honor to have her as part of our ohana for 30 years. She was a special ambassador for her kind, raising awareness about the threats to the Hawaiian monk seal and sharing her sweet and distinct personality with everyone who had the privilege to care for her. She’ll be deeply missed.
Lambchop (NOA0005662) was brought to the Park extremely emaciated from the French Frigate Shoals in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands as part of a “Head Start” program 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 (NOAA data https://www.fpir.noaa.gov/PRD/prd_hms_learn_about.html.). 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, she was also 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.
“It is always heartbreaking to lose an animal, especially one so dear to us but this is what we want, we want them to get to live to be this age,” said Donna Festa, former President Hawaiian Monk Seal Response Team Oahu.
Dana Jones, Volunteer Coordinator for the Hawaiian Monk Seal Preservation Ohana offered a poignant memory, highlighting the impact that Lambchop made on the community, “We had a Make-A-Wish child visit with her and that was the child’s one special wish—to get to meet Lambchop,” recalls Jones. “It was an incredibly special moment. That’s the kind of effect that Lambchop had on everyone, and the kind of legacy she leaves behind.”
Habitat loss and the lack of food are key threats to monk seals in the wild. The efforts of the Park—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 helping to encourage important Monk Seal population resurgence and growth. The plight of the species is dependent upon the education and awareness of threats they face.