Threatened Seal Species Face an Unusual Enemy

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The Hawaiian monk seal has been added to the endangered species list as a variety of issues ranging from diseases to getting caught in fish nets has been plaguing the species. A new challenge seems to pose further threat in the form of eels trying to go up their snouts.

The local Hawaii division of the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration has recently published a picture that shows a monk seal which has a rather long eel stuck in its snout. This is the latest in a series of events that started to appear more often in the last couple of years as marine researchers are baffled by the events.

Researchers have been observing the species for almost 40 years but the bizarre situation started to surface recently. At least four known cases took place until now but more have happened.

The first spotting took place back in 2016 and at that time some of the researchers thought that someone was playing a practical joke by editing a picture. They were shocked to learn that it was in fact real and the employees that are a part of the monk seal program have been trained in order to know how to properly remove the eels.

While at first sight it may look funny the situation poses a real danger for the seals. They can develop infections or lose their ability to hunt and feed themselves. The eels also block a natural sealing process that protects their lung from sea weather and the risk of drowning is severely increased.

The researchers managed to remove the eels from nose of the seals that have been spotted but they are still trying to learn why they attract eels in the first place. One theory implies that the eels get stuck as they try to flee when the deals are looking for food. It is estimated that less than 1,500 monk seals are still swimming in the warm waters of Hawaii.


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