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Aquarium Veterinarian Helps Save Monk Seals
Posted on May 11, 2012
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Large circle hook swallowed by endangered monk seal in Hawaii (NOAA)
Large circle hook swallowed by endangered monk seal in Hawaii (NOAA)

Vancouver Aquarium veterinarian, Dr. Martin Haulena, received an emergency call on May 9 to fly to Hawaii to help support a local rescue effort.

Rescued Hawaiian monk seal named "Sharkbite" (NOAA)
Rescued Hawaiian monk seal named "Sharkbite" (NOAA)

He participated in two successful procedures to remove accidentally-ingested fishing hooks from endangered monk seals on May 10.

Dr. Haulena gives endangered monk seal anesthesia for surgical procedure (NOAA)
Dr. Haulena gives endangered monk seal anesthesia for surgical procedure (NOAA)

One of the monk seals required surgery to remove the hook, which was lodged deep in the esophagus near the opening to the stomach. Dr. Haulena performed the anesthesia and collaborated with Dr. Robert Braun and veterinarians at the Honolulu Zoo to remove the hook. The seal is in recovery and rehabilitation is expected to take several days to weeks.

Large circle hook that was removed from a monk seal (NOAA)
Large circle hook that was removed from the monk seal (NOAA)

The Hawaiian monk seal is the most endangered North American pinniped. Some of the known threats to monk seals include habitat loss and injuries caused by human interactions.

The Aquarium is part of an international network of organizations that help to rescue and provide emergency care to animals in distress, especially those threatened with extinction. This rescue effort was a collaboration among several organizations including the Vancouver Aquarium, Honolulu Zoo, Hawaii Department of Land and National Resources and NOAA Fisheries Service Pacific Island Regional Office (Protective Resources Division).

The Aquarium’s own Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, a marine animal hospital, rescues, rehabilitates and releases up to 150 animals each year.


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  1. I’d like to Thank the Doctors, Nurses, Volanteers that helped with this rescue effort. We definitely need more places and people that are dedicated to helping our animals in distress. That looks like a fish hook used for ulua fishing while shore casting. It’s a damn shame to see these kind of results of a sport that i’m teaching my daughter. This will be a lesson to the both of us and hopefully all other shore castors around and on all islands as well as else where that we all have to be much more responsible on the decisions that are made while enjoying a sport that can have serious consequences on our beloved creatures as we make the wrong decisions. Please everyone, this is a prime example that we have to do more on our part to help protect these loving, graceful creatures from harm. Please have a speedy and 150% recovery big guy!!!! Our prayers are with you. Aloha.

  2. My son is a volunteer at the Honolulu Zoo and called us Sunday night to explain what had transpired late last week. He had stayed as late as he could to help if needed, given his other job and studies at the University of Hawaii the day following the surgery, but he had missed the outcome on the second seal. Simply amazing.

  3. Thank you so very much for using your talents to help this beautiful creature. And thank you also for allowing my son, Brian Hill, to witness your efforts as a volunteer at the Honolulu Zoo. I will use this incident to reach out to my middle school students to try to make them more aware of their responsibilities we have as humans to treat all other living organisms on this planet with love and respect. Sincerely, Beverly Hill

  4. I send warm wishes and a little prayer for a full and speedy recovery. Hope your back on all flippers soon!