Remembering The Happy Days With R5AY

R5AY & Ola Loa (RG03)
Newborn – 2/24/15

Blog Photo 1

Photo Credit:  Dana Jones


There will never be another seal to come along and fill this void in our family and our hearts, but we will always remember the happiest moments in our lives. We will always have our memories when this Grande Dame gave birth, which was often, and brought hope for her species and happiness to us all. Her pups were and are some of the most beautiful and entertaining. Many hours were spent by numerous volunteers looking after Honey Girl and her babies over the years.

Putting together all the calculations R5AY/AZ received her tags on Kauai in 2003 when she had a fishhook removed. She was thought to be 6 years old at that time. There were sporadic sightings on Oahu beginning in August 2003. In many of the same areas, she has frequented throughout her life. Turtle Bay, Kahuku, Hauula. The joy she brought to the many Northshore communities and all of Oahu speaks to her legacy.

In 2005 she gave birth to RI37 on Kauai. We all knew and loved RI37 (Ipo) with the same devotion we gave to R5AY (Honey Girl). In 2006 HG gave birth to R032 (Penelope) at Turtle Bay. Some of our volunteers were just starting their monk seal journey at this juncture of R5AY’s life. One of the most dedicated, Donielle Bowers, gave Honey Girl her nickname since she used to haul out on a little spit of sand just across from Donielle’s house. Lesley M. was visiting at that time and

met Penelope and R5AY. Jim & Kathy Brown started their journey with Penelope and like many have continued with their dedication and commitment to this species.

Our involvement and love affair with this seal came to fruition when we began volunteering with NOAA to look after two new babies on the North Shore. On May 12, 2008, R5AY would give birth to RW18 (Hoku). Two days later KC (RK28) would give birth to RW22 (Kolohe). Many of us were split up to watch KC and Kolohe and some to watch after Honey Girl and Hoku. The thrill of seeing a newborn pup and watching how R5AY would give the pup the stink eye was one of the funny aspects in the relationship but when the bonding and love were witnessed it was a moving moment. There was something so special, only a few people in their lives get to see and understand. We were learning a lot about ourselves from the animals. I remember calling NOAA concerned about some behavior. This being my first, I was unfamiliar with what momma monk seals do. I thought she was being too rough on the pup and trying to drown him. This was about week #3 into pup watches. The pup was growing and getting feisty. Of course. It was a fairly laughable question to the initiated but was answered patiently and reassuringly that this was normal behavior. What? She’s slapping the crap out of that baby when he won’t listen to her. Yeah, well…….Honey Girl was a pretty tough Momma, which of course is a lesson well learned when an 8- week old weaner is left to fend on its own.

Needless to say, most volunteers became loyal monk seal watchers from then on. Once exposed to a mom and pup pair its generally love at first sight. This time in the monk seal world was crucial to the movement to save this species. The education and recruitment of volunteers during these pupping events became the easiest time for people to commit. It is not every day you get to contribute to the saving of a species. It is also a very real reason to celebrate the introduction of new life and resiliency of these mammals. The hope and happiness these animals bring to everyone is part of the circle.

During all of our early education with R5AY and KC’s pups, we were also volunteers in training to take care of KP2. Another darling pup that has given us years of happy times.

In 2009 R5AY decided to return to Kauai and had another girl RA20. Some of us were lucky enough to watch after this youngster and learn from fellow island volunteers some of the antics of monk seals on a VERY busy birthing beach.
Again, R5AY exhibited what a terrific Mother she was when male seals started becoming interested in her and the 5-week old pup. She was not having ANY visitors and watching how she defended RA20 was a moment for National Geographic. You do not mess with Momma!

The birth in 2008 of RT10 (Ua’Malie) was a milestone in watching after R5AY and her growing family. Volunteers had already experienced the losses of moving pups. As reported before, watching after Ua’Malie became a long-term commitment from 175 Oahu & North Shore volunteers putting in over 2,100 hours for the next six months to look after Ua’Malie. She became a hard to find but happy face to see after being weaned and tagged. Her behavior after being x- rayed for a possible hook is a fond memory. After waking her up from the x-ray she promptly bit one of our favorite biologists and went roaring out into the water with a very extreme roar and affronted attitude. She proceeded to hide and cause all of us a bit of extra wear and tear to monitor her health and well- being. She also became a favorite of the fishermen since she liked to chase the Ulua back to shore. They would come and show the volunteers the huge fish that she would chase right back to their area. Those are some very happy memories from that little pup. Thank you Honey Girl for all the wonderful memories with you and Ua’Malie.

Many were fortunate to see live births over the next couple of years by this wonderful monk seal momma. By this time, the volunteers had enough experience with her that predictions could be pretty much counted on within a few days of birth. This helped us get ready for pups coming into the world and setting up pup and weaner watches over the next upcoming months.

Some really good memories and happy days were spent under the tents training new volunteers and watching over R5AY and her pups and collecting data for NOAA. Many talk-story moments were shared, getting ready for fireworks, weddings, and talking to 400-500 people a day in some cases. The staff at the resort were terrific people to work with.

Another pup story about RK82 (La’akea) has to do with hotel staff. La’akea decided she was going to explore the main beach at Turtle Bay at the hotel. The staff being very diligent and watching after the seals and guests, blasted an air horn to get the people out of the water. She was coming through. It scared her so badly that she stopped and proceeded to attack the buoy that was right next to her. After a few flipper slaps and lots of barking and circling, she headed back to her cozy pool where it was much quieter. It was one of the funniest moments and a story that was told several times showing how she reacted and beat that buoy up. Another happy moment by R5AY.

What could have been a tragic time in 2012 shows the resiliency of this truly remarkable seal. After giving birth to RL54 (Kai’kaina) and having a long nursing period (usual for this mom) she was spotted several times showing a large fish hook and looking emaciated. She was finally rescued close to death. Volunteers were hiking the beaches and looking for her for several days and finally, she hauled out. Her rescue, surgery, and ultimate recovery and release is perhaps one of the greatest stories we all remember too well.

There was no Ke Kai Ola or IRC back in those days. The Waikiki Aquarium, where most of Oahu’s rehab and injured animals were taken was alerted and she was taken there on the edge of death. The efforts from the vets and scientists and volunteers pulled her through. One moment of complete and utter bliss came when she was fed live Talapia which caused such a prey reaction in the tank we were completely drenched with seawater. Following “professional protocols” we moved to the side of the tank doing high fives and happy dances and crying with joy that she had finally shown behavior that was positive for recovery. Cannot keep a good seal down. It was a moment to share with all the caregivers and made that particular Thanksgiving one that was truly rememberable and remarkable. She was released 13 days later with a lot of happy caregivers watching her go straight to the water and out to sea. This was truly a miracle and a happy moment for us all.

Another happy time we can all be so proud of is in January 2014 when little RF20 (Meli) was born. Meli’s sisters La’akea and Kai’Kaina showed up and R5AY’s living Oahu offspring were there. Except for Ua’Malie who never liked a crowd.

In 2015 R5AY would give birth to yet another female G03 (Ola Loa). Seeing her born was a happy, scary (breech birth) and memorable moment for the volunteers that were able to witness the birth. That same year Ua’Malie had her first pup G40 (Holokai). What a moment for celebration. 3 generations of R5AY pups all close in the same area.

This remarkable seal would raise 7 pups by the age of 15. She would give many people hope for this species and the hope for the Hawaiian Monk Seals’ survival over the years. So many were privileged to watch over her and her pups and it changed lives for the better. Her legacy will live on for many of us and when we all get together again, I hope we can talk some happy story and remember the good days with this remarkable lady. She will always be a part of our Ohana and like Mothers and Grandmothers everywhere. Honored and revered.

Mahalo nui loa Honey Girl for your many gifts to mankind and your species.

R5AY & Grandson Holokai-3rd generation Oahu 2017

Blog Photo 2

Photo Credit:  Diane Gabriel


R5AY’s Pups

• May 2005: RI37 – F Ipo – born Kauai – deceased 2/2019 – possible traumatic injury
• June 2006: RO22 – F Penelope – born Turtle Bay – deceased 10/2006 – Gil net
• June 2008: RW18 – M Hoku – born North Shore – deceased 10/2008 – Gil net
• June 2009: RA20 – F – born Kauai – resident on Big Island
• June 2010: RT10 – F Ua’Malie – born Turtle Bay – deceased 5/2019 – toxoplasmosis
• July 2011: RK82 – F La’akea – born Turtle Bay – status unknown
• August 2012: RL54 – F Kai’kaina – born Turtle Bay – deceased 11/2015 – COD unknown
• January 2014: RF20 – F Meli – born Turtle Bay – status unknown
• February 2015: RG03 – F Ola Loa – born Turtle Bay – deceased 12/2015 – fish hook ingestion
• March 2016: Male pup born deceased at birth
• April 2018: RK80 – F Keolakai – Born JCNWR – resident on Oahu
• May 2019: RL36 – M Makoa – Born Turtle Bay – deceased 11/2019 – Gil net

R5AY Honey Girl and RL36 Makoa – Oahu 2019


Photo Credit:  Melody Bentz


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