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Endangered Hawaiian monk seals repeatedly get eels in their noses



A relaxed-looking Hawaiian monk seal lounge near a white sand beach on green foliage. His eyes are half closed and he has a calm expression on his face. But the calm attitude of the seal is surprising.

Why? Well, there's a long, black and white eel dangling from his right nostril.

"It's just so shocking," said Claire Simeone, veterinarian and monk seal expert from Hawaii, on Thursday's Washington Post. "It's an animal with another animal in its nose."

Simeone was not the only person who shared the photo of the seal and its unusual facial ornament, which was shared on Facebook earlier this week by National Oceanic and Atmospheric, baffling Hawaiian Monk Seal Research's administration program. The image taken this year on the remote northwestern Hawaiian Islands has now become viral, drawing attention to a rare phenomenon that encourages scientists who now beg the endangered seals to "make better choices."

It All Began Two years ago, when Charles Littnan, senior scientist of the Monk Seals Program, woke up to a strange email from researchers in the field. The subject line was short: "Eel in the nose."

"It was like this:" We found a seal with an eel in the nose, do we have a record? "Littnan told the post in a telephone interview.

There were none, Littnan said, and it took several emails and phone calls until the decision was made to grab the eel and try to pull it out.

"There were only two inches of eel left in the nose, so it was very similar to the magician's magic trick when they pulled out the tissues and kept coming and coming and coming," he said.

In less than a minute, two and a half feet of dead eel tore from the nostril of the seal.

Since then, Littnan has reported that at least three or four cases have been reported ̵

1; the most recent case this fall. In all cases, the eels were successfully removed and the seals "are doing well," he said. However, none of the eels survived.

"We have no idea why this happens suddenly," Littnan said. "You see some very strange things, if you observe nature long enough, and this could end up becoming one of those little curiosities and secrets of our career that we will have in the next 40 years." We will retire and always ask still exactly how that happened. " 19659002] Researchers have already stated that this is not the result of a person having a personal vendetta against seals and eels, since all cases have been reported from remote islands visited only by scientists. Littnan said he had some theories about how to naturally clamp an eel into the nostril of a seal.

The favorite prey of a seal – usually fish, octopi and, of course, eels – likes to hide in coral reefs so as not to be eaten, and since marine mammals have no hands, they have to hunt their faces.

"They like to stick their faces in the coral reef holes and spit water out of their mouths to rinse things off and they'll do all sorts of tricks, but they'll poke their faces in holes. "19659002] An eel in the corner decided that the only way to escape or defend themselves was because the attacker was nostrils and young seals that are" not so good at fetching their food "had a hard lesson to learn

But Littnan said the theory does not make much sense.

"They are really quite long eels and their diameter is probably close to what it would be for a nasal passa," he said. 19659002] He added that the nostrils of a monk seal, which reflexively close when diving for food, are very muscular and that it would be difficult for any animal to enforce it.

"I have trouble thinking of an eel that really wants to push himself in the nose, "he said.

The other way eels might end up in the nostrils is throwing. Just as people sometimes mistakenly spit food or drinks out of their noses, so could seals that often pick up their meals.

However, Littnan said it was not possible that a "long, fat eel" would end up running through the nose of a seal and not out of her mouth. The most plausible theory, he said, is that monk seal teens are not that different from their human counterparts. Monk seals "seem to be naturally dressed to get into difficult situations," Littnan said.

"It almost feels like one of those youthful trends that are happening," he said. "A young seal did that very stupidly, and now the others are trying to imitate it."

Although no seals have died or been seriously affected by the eels, a dead animal has a potentially noxious effect on the nose for extended periods of time, said Simeone, director of Ke Kai Ola, a monk seal hospital in Hawaii , which is operated by the Marine Mammal Center.

With an eel in its nose, a monk seal could not close the stuffy nostril while diving, meaning that water could get into the lungs and cause problems like pneumonia, Simeone said. It could also lead to infections.

On Facebook, the photo of the seal on early Friday morning had more than 1,600 responses. The caption read: "Monday … It may not have been good for you, but it must have been better than an eel in the nose." It also became a trend on Twitter.


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