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Hawaiian Monk Seal Recovery Hospital Now Funded, Set to Open this Sumner

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Mar 01, 2014 12:27 PM EST
Hawaiian monk seal rests on a beach in Hawaii
A new center dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of sick and injured Hawaiian monk seals has received full funding and is scheduled to open this summer. (Photo : Michelle Barbieri - The Marine Mammal Center)

A new center dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of sick and injured Hawaiian monk seals has received full funding and is scheduled to open this summer.

The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, Calif. announced this week that it will open its Hawaiian Monk Seal hospital in Kona, Hawaii.

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Imperiled Hawaiian monk seals have been declining in numbers for decades as rates of as much as 4 percent annually. Currently the Hawaiian monk seal population stands as less than 1,100, the center said, noting that fewer than one-in-five seal pups survive in the wild because of predation, a changing food ecosystem and because they frequently get entangled in garbage disposed of in the ocean.

The $3.2 million animal rescue center, dubbed Ke Kai Ola (The Healing Sea), will include neonate rehabilitation facilities, quarantine pens, two larger pens and pools for juvenile seals, a medical lab and other facilities, the Marine Mammal Center said in a statement. Funding came from a variety of sources, including the Firedoll Foundation, a large, but unspecified, family contribution and numerous smaller donations.

The Marine Mammal Center, which is dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of marine mammals, reports that is has rescued and provided medical care for more than 18,000 marine mammals along the central and northern California coast since 1975.

Construction of new Hawaiian monk seal rescue facility began in September 2012 on land owned by the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority (NELHA) at Keahole Point, Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. The

"We are building this hospital to help save a species," said Jeff Boehm, executive director at The Marine Mammal Center. "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."

The seal hospital is a joint venture with 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," said 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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