The Extraordinary Life of a Lonely Seal

(Photo by TM Williams)

A message from KP2:

Aloha Friends,

Two weeks ago I turned 8 years old. That's prime adulthood in Hawaiian monk seal years. And as most adults are want to do I took stock of my life. This year there seemed scant reason for a celebratory "wahooo." I'm endangered. My wild family continues to be endangered and it is darn lonely being 1 of only 1200 of your species. On my island of Oahu, there are more Starbucks coffee shops than Hawaiian monk seals.

I slipped into the bleakness of a species coming to an end. In recent years, my wild family has met its demise with rocks to their heads, gun shots, fishing hooks, marine debris, and sharks. Last month someone actually punched one of my pregnant relatives as she tried to haul out on a beach. Where is the aloha spirit in that? It's enough to make even the most exuberant seal take pause on his birthday.

So I've been chilling on my pink surfboard in my Waikiki Aquarium pool mulling over life and considering whether I've really done any good. They call me an "Ambassador for my Species"; it seems a hollow title...

I was about to conclude that I've been a wasted life when an astonishing thing happened this week. A wrinkled white business envelope with a penciled in address arrived at my old school at the University of California- Santa Cruz. In pencil penmanship on lined notebook paper, an 11-year-old girl had written to me and my scientist friends at the university. She had read my book! She said that she was excited that I had lived in her town near the university while I was being rehabilitated.

And then she shocked this endangered seal. She had gathered her friends and family at the beach to celebrate the oceans on her birthday. They played in the same Pacific Ocean as my family, they dug their toes into the yellow sand. And when they were done, they didn't give her a birthday present- they gave a gift to me and the scientists that had saved me! This is what she wrote,

(Photo by TM Williams)

It was a hug from 2300 miles away and brought a tear to this seal's blinded eyes as well the eyes of the scientists.

And then I remembered. I am the lucky seal, the one that has lived an extraordinary life despite being an orphan and nearly-blind.

(Photo by NOAA-NMFS and TM Williams)

Human hands once pulled me off of a beach when I was a starving two-day-old pup. Military hands flew me across the Pacific, and scientists' hands healed me. Human hands take care of me at my aquarium home every day. Today the hearts and hands of a small girl and her friends gave me hope.

It was the message I had been trying to send all along, the same message that naturalist Alexander von Humboldt, our Founding Father John Quincy Adams, and nature photographer Ansel Adams had told us across hundreds of years.

The beauty of nature residing in our oceans and imprinted on our lands will be saved by the united power of passion and science.

Thank goodness for 11-year-old girls for reminding us of that!

WAHHOOOOOOoooooooo, KP2!

(Photo by TM Williams)