Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Tuesday, July 6, 2004

Seal gets his freedom today

By Carrie Ching
Advertiser Staff Writer

Independence Day is today for TT40, the injured monk seal who had surgery to remove a fishhook almost three weeks ago. This morning, TT40 will be released into his natural habitat on Kaua'i by veterinarians from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Marine Fisheries Service.

TT40, with a tracking device on his back, will be released today. The seal was captured so a 5-inch hook could be taken from his esophagus.

NOAA Fisheries

Since his surgery on June 16, when veterinarians removed a 5-inch circle fishhook from his esophagus, TT40 has been recovering in a saltwater pool at the NOAA Fisheries' Kewalo Research Facility. The seal received more than 200 stitches during the surgery, the first of its kind on an endangered Hawaiian monk seal.

"His incision is healing well," said Brad Ryon, an NOAA Fisheries marine biologist. "And his appetite is fantastic." Ryon said TT40 is now eating 10 pounds of herring a day, along with a healthy dose of multivitamins to help him heal. He was taken off antibiotics earlier, Ryon said.

Before the release, veterinarians will take a blood sample to make sure he has no infections. "We want to make sure he has a clean bill of health," Ryon said.

The 55-pound male was first seen near Kapa'a, Kaua'i, June 4 with fishing line trailing from his mouth. Volunteers and NOAA Fisheries officials captured the animal soon after when he came in at Waimea. The Coast Guard airlifted the seal, known by his flipper tag number TT40, to O'ahu June 11, where veterinarians went to work trying to remove the fishhook he swallowed.

NOAA officials decided to release the seal after the holiday weekend to keep him safe from all the expected beach activity, Ryon said. The Coast Guard will fly the seal and NOAA Fisheries officials to Kaua'i early this morning for his release at an undisclosed remote beach.

Veterinarian Bob Braun said TT40 is a friendly seal and was known to hang out at southern Kaua'i beaches, where he watched families barbecue.

But Ryon said people should not approach monk seals in the wild. "Hawaiian monk seals are endangered and protected by state and federal laws. It's illegal to disturb, harass, harm or feed them," he said. "We ask people to stay at least 150 feet away." Ryon also asked that people not make loud noises to get their attention and keep pets on leashes.

"It's best to admire them from a distance," he said.

Reach Carrie Ching at 525-8054 or cching@honoluluadvertiser.com.