ABOARD US COAST GUARD HC-130 HERCULES (AP) — Seven endangered Hawaiian monk seals that were found abandoned or malnourished have begun their trip back to their remote island homes after being rescued and rehabilitated.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration rescued the seal pups several months ago on the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, the northernmost islands and atolls in the Hawaiian Islands chain. The nonprofit Marine Mammal Center’s monk seal hospital on Hawaii’s Big Island then nursed them back to health.
On Thursday, the seals were loaded into a U.S. Coast Guard airplane for a flight from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, to Honolulu. The Associated Press was on the flight.
The seals are being held in a NOAA facility on Oahu until Sunday. From there, they’ll be transported by boat to the islands they were rescued from.
The marine center says most monk seal pups in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands die because of threats including predation, entanglement and environmental changes.