The goal of Ecological Education tells us it’s our responsibility to both learn about creation and to teach others what we must do to protect Mother Earth and its inhabitants. Meeting an injured seal pup on Kalaupapa, Sister Alicia Damien Lau learned that human intervention can be both good and bad.
I Am Free Again!
By S. Alicia Damien Lau
NOAA, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, is always there to help. On June 2, 2022, Glauco, National Park Service staff on Kalaupapa, found a year-old monk seal called RP92 (yes, not only the patients with leprosy had numbers, but also the seals) with a fishhook in its mouth. Glauco, and other NPS staff, got him in a cage and called NOAA. The Coast Guard helicopter took two days to arrive. Unable to eat or drink, all Glauco could do was keep him wet/hydrated by spraying and pouring water on him. On June 3, when no one was around, I visited RP92 and told him to be brave, that help was coming, and to hang on. I sat down near his cage, looked at his big brown eyes, and said to him, “Don’t be afraid; you will be ok, and one day you will return to us. There is hope, and you need to be strong.” This made me think of when Mother Marianne came to Kalaupapa. The young girls whom she was to care for were afraid and felt abandoned and alone, just like RP92.
The Coast Guard and NOAA came that afternoon, and RP92 took the 45-minute trip to the NOAA facility at Kona. There, technicians took an X-ray that showed a giant fish hook lodged in the seal’s throat; they removed it.
On July 8, we received a surprise text from Glauco. The Coast Guard was bringing RP92 back to Kalaupapa! S. Barbara Jean Wadja and I rearranged our schedules. I tracked the helicopter on my “Flightradar24” and alerted everyone at the airport that it was coming around the bend.
After moving the cage from the helicopter to the truck, a line of cars headed down to the ocean behind the carpenter shop. The crew set the pen gently on the ground, not too far from the water’s edge, and opened the door. Slowly RP92 moved out, inch by inch, looking around to see if anyone would stop him. No one did, and he raced to the water, looking back once more before swimming away. As he made his way to the pier, he looked at everything, saying hello to some friends on the dock, fishing.
Welcome Home, RP92, and yes, you’re free once again!
Mahalo to Glauco, the staff, and NOAA.
The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) shares 15 ways you can help protect the ocean and marine animals. Take a few minutes to look over these suggestions and, if you feel moved to adopt these lifestyle habits, sign the pledge to clean up our ocean and protect the animals who call it home.