KAILUA-KONA — A CT scan performed on a Hawaiian monk seal show the animal is suffering from muscle inflammation and infection, according to officials.
The scan performed April 21 at North Hawaii Community Hospital in Waimea discovered the 3-year-old female seal’s inflammation and infection in her back flippers spread to her bloodstream and caused a wide range of other problems.
The endangered mammal, identified as RH38, is one of only 1,400 alive in the wild.
The seal is receiving antibiotics, pain medications and laser therapy at the Marine Mammal Center on the Big Island, where she has been under care since March 12.
Officials suspect trauma as the initial cause of the injury based on the location and extent of the muscle damage.
“Wild animals mask pain and injury, so internal injuries can be well hidden, unlike more obvious external wounds,” said Dr. Claire Simeone, the Marine Mammal Center’s director at Ke Kai Ola Hawaiian Monk Seal Hospital.
It is unknown whether the trauma was natural or human-induced, or whether the injuries were intentionally or accidentally inflicted, the center said.
Monk seals can suffer trauma during interactions with predators or other seals or from a variety of hazards, including debris in heavy surf and eroding rocks along shorelines. Accidental sources of trauma can include a boat strike or vehicle injury, the center said.
The seal facility turned to North Hawaii Community Hospital for help in determining the cause of its illness in April because the mammal center does not have CT scan equipment.