Rare stamps are smelling eels


Like many endangered species, the Hawaiian monk seal has struggled to draw attention to its many trials – some of which are as strange as they are cruel.

In July, an autopsy revealed that three seals died of a disease called toxoplasmosis, caused by the microscopic parasite toxoplasma gondii – which is commonly found in cat feces.

"Cat poop kills seal pups" is a great title. But no one ran with it.

Desperate times require desperate measures

Last week, one of the last 1400 monk seals took publicity matters to its own … flippers, and posed for a photo with an eel stuck in the nose.

The Honolulu-based Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program (HMSRP) – part of the NOAA fishing agency in the United States – posted the photo on its Facebook page last Monday.

"Mondays … may not have been good for you, but it must have been better than an eel on your nose," joked Brittany Dolan of HMSRP on the Facebook page.

Ms Dolan explained this was not a single one.

The Hawaiian monk seal explores the coral reefs of French frigate frigates on the northwestern islands of Hawaii. Photo: NOAA Fisheries / Mark Sullivan, photo taken with permission

Epidemic of smelling eels

"We now find juvenile seals with eels stuck in their noses on several occasions," she wrote. "In all cases, the eel was successfully removed and the seals were fine. The eels, however, failed.

Most of the commentary on the page was comically tilted: "When an eel protrudes out and clenches its muzzle, this is a Moray," wrote Greg Boness.

Johann Peter Lall pondered: "Where are these young seals learning this eel sniffing things? Video Games? "

Maureen Winter gave her mother a perspective: "Like little children and
peas … "

Predictably, the photo became viral, the sphere of Twitter lamented the status of the seal, and more stories were written about the beautiful monk seal in the last days of, well, probably never.

The first eel seal was discovered on the island of Lisianski in Hawaii in 2016. The discovery did not make much of a picture because most of the eel had disappeared in the nose and throat of the muzzle, leaving a lump that could easily have been a strange growth .

Just keep pulling, slowly

Since then, special protocols – a variation of the magician's trick of slowly pulling a pocket scarf – have been developed to remove the wrigglers from the nostrils of the seals.

But why are they smelling them in the first place? The research program has two theories.

Firstly, seals blindly search for food with their faces, pushing their mouths and noses under the rocks and in the crevices of coral reefs. Thus, it may be that the eels are aggressively writhing in the nostrils as a defense strategy.

The other idea is that the seals swallow the whole eels and then regurgitate them through their noses.

But why is this happening now? The program monitors monk seals 40 years ago – and the eel snorter is a new phenomenon.

In a statement, the HMSRP said: "We do not know if this is just a strange statistical anomaly, or whether we will see more eels in the seals in the future."

The leading program scientist and ecology research supervisory, Charles Littnan, said The Washington Post: "It almost looks like one of those teen trends that happens. A youthful seal has done this very stupid thing and now the others are trying to imitate it.

"I would beg them to stop," he said, since there is a possibility that eels may pose a health risk to seals.

They already have enough problems.

Monk seals are a popular tourist attraction, especially for kayakers who seek an intimate encounter with a sweet-eyed creature.

But monk seals have been fighting for survival since the Polynesians landed in Hawaii about 1500 years ago and killed most of them for flesh and oil.

Among its current problems are climate change, diseases, toxins and parasites, sharks and, ultimately, human murders resentful of the status of protection of the seal: whenever a seal lands on a populated beach, a zone of exclusion is established, irritants who wants to play with the dogs and follow their whims.

It is estimated that the economy of the species costs US $ 378 million (US $ 525 million) and takes 54 years.


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