Hawaiian monk seal gets eye removed in surgery

HONOLULU (AP) - Veterinarians have removed the infected eye of a young, underweight Hawaiian monk seal during surgery at the Honolulu Zoo.

The 1-to-2 year-old female juvenile found on Niihau was losing weight because it couldn't feed itself, federal officials said.

The 95-pound animal was so thin that its hips and spine became more visible, said Dr. Michelle Barbieri, conservation medicine veterinarian for the Marine Mammal Center, a California-based organization helping treat the seal.

She said seals with only one eye can do well in the wild.

Bariberi said it appears something punctured the seal's eyeball, and Its lower eyelid was cut. Doctors don't know whether humans injured the animal.

The seal has shown a great appetite since the surgery was performed Wednesday, Bariberi said, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser (http://bit.ly/1kD7Sno) reported.

"It's really an encouraging sign in her recovery," she said. "So far things are looking pretty good."

Hawaiian monk seals are a critically endangered species. Fewer than 1,100 remain and the population is declining about 4 percent a year.

A Coast Guard C-130 flew the seal identified as R1KU to Oahu as part of a regular training flight.

A federal team initially treated her with antibiotics on Niihau after the Robinson family, which owns the island, reported her injury. Officials decided to bring her to Oahu after she kept losing weight.

"We're very, very thankful to the Robinson family for notifying us," said David Schofield, marine mammal response manager for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Hawaii.


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