Wednesday, January 1, 2014

January 1, 2014 - Looking Back

January 1, 2008
It was a cold rainy dark new year's morning when my phone rang close to 8:00 am.... A friend who had been running Kailua Beach called to say Happy New Year and oh by the way there is a seal on the beach near your house.  WHAT? a seal... there are seals in Hawaii? What kind of seal? How big is it? No time for questions... I threw on my jacket and ran across the street to the closest public access and got to the beach... I saw a small group of people gathered and headed towards them.... and sure enough there was a seal.

This seal was brown, long skinny and laying straight out close to the napaka.... he was very still, so still I took a closer look to see if he was alive.... I got within 3 feet when there was a snort... and backed away immediately... yes he was alive. But what's wrong with him? Why is he here?  Where did he come from?

I walked over to the small group of folks, who turned out to be property owners where this rather large brown seal decided to haul up to.  I joined in the discussion as to who to call about this seal.... Sea Life Park? The Aquarium? University of Hawaii? Animal Control? It's new years day.... who's open?  Then some one suggested NOAA.... This took me totally by surprise... what does a seal have to do with the folks that deal with the weather?  As all of us were scratching our heads.... Honolulu's finest arrived and put caution tape around this animal.... It took a couple of hours before an "official" person came along to explain to us what was going on.  This was the day I met David Schofield, Marine Mammal Response Program Manager of the Pacific Island Regional NOAA office. There it is again.... Of course I had to ask... Why would a federal agency that warns us about hurricanes, storms and such care about a seal.... This was moment I learned the real truth.

Here before me was a critically endangered marine mammal, federally protected.... I was looking at 1 of a possible 1200 Hawaiian monk seals.... I didn't even know there were seals here in Hawaii let alone they being endangered!  NOAA ( National OCEANIC and  Atmospheric Administration) hmmm OCEANIC all things having to do with the ocean was here to take care of this seal.... so now I think oh the task force rangers will be here any minute.... What? no one is coming? How can that be? Who the hell is going to protect this poor thing.....  Okay I think you see where this is going.....

The Hawaiian monk seal volunteer in me was born..... January 1st, 2008 Chester and me.... I sat with him for 26 days from sun up to midnight, waiting for him to return to where ever it was he came from.... He of course decided to molt.... a very long slow..... molt..... I learned a lot about monk seals, people, and how much work needed to be done. I met some incedible people that January.... Auntie Sharon is one of my closest and dearest friends.... not to mention her family.......  DB!!! (who I originally thought was a vet because people kept saying oh... DB was by today to check on Chester)...  Dr. Greg Levine, David Schofield, Tracy Wurth, Brenda, Shawn and so many of the NOAA/NMFS team.... volunteers, Patty who slept out under the stars every evening with Chester.... Brook who worked at Sea Life Park and earned the name Annie Oakley ( I don't know anything about how that happened :-)  All the Kailua firefighters who indulged us in Aunty Sharon's plea to help and stayed out overnight to watch over him.... Linda and the couple who were on vacation from Ohio who made it out every morning at sunrise to relieve the over night shift.... We this very small group of Kailua neighbors took it very seriously about protecting an endangered species.

I am proud to see the growth today.... our main island population is doing so well.... our volunteers are out there in forces, and organized..... (okay somewhat organized :-)   .... DB aka the seal whispered has given many many of us the wisdom and passion to continue on no matter what.... simply because if we don't, who else will.

It was six years ago when I met Chester, and I will forever be grateful to that old man of seal.... In the short time I knew him he changed my life forever..... We lost Chester in March of 2008.... it broke my heart, but I knew exactly what I had to keep doing.

With this rather long winded story.... I wish you all a HAPPY NEW YEAR.... and to say thank you for ALL your efforts, no matter how big or small. We are all here because we are passionate people who give a dam about a species that is fighting to survive, that deserves to survive..... 

oh and finally.... Happy Belated Birthday DB xoxoxoxoxoxo
My heart felt love and aloha
da blog lady....
p.s. the blog was born in February of 2008.... I will save that for later :-) 


Val said...

Thanks Blog's through the blog that I came to know and love ya. What adventures we've experienced. Thank you for your passion and friendship.

Donna said...

No thank you Val.... it's because of people like you the blog has been so meaningful.... Your friendship is a big bonus.... one I will treasure forever. BTW hug your girls with paws for me.... especially that Gracie character, she cracks me up!

madhatter said...

I am so glad that I found the blog and that I am learning about Monk Seals,they are so cool I love the expressions on their faces.
I first learned about Monk Seals when I was getting ready to come on vacation to Hawaii,KP 2 was my first, since then I have fallen in love with them and have gotten to know so many more. I'm still reading through the blog archives and I'm up to the end of 2010.
I would love to volunteer and look for the seals each day, but I live in Ohio. I will continue to read the blog everyday day and I since I work with school age children during an after school program I will be teaching them about these cool Monk Seals.