Hooded seals found in the Caribbean
(forwarded from Dr. Antonio Mignucci-Giannoni)

On July 20, 2001, a young female hooded seal (Cystophora cristata) stranded at Playa Puerto Nuevo, Vega Baja, in the tropical island of Puerto Rico. The seal measured 110 cm in length and weighted 29 lbs. The seal was rescued by the Caribbean Stranding Network and veterinarian Luis Figueroa examined the animal and prescribed electrolyte fluids for dehydration, and antibiotics as preventive treatment. The seal is alert and resting in a fiberglass pool at the Caribbean Stranding Network at Universidad Metropolitana in San Juan. Caretakers around the clock watch the seal for any changes of behavior and treatment. The animal was stomach-tubed for hydration. Abdominal X-rays taken on Saturday did not show signs of sand impaction in the GI tract and blood analysis showed the animal to be in relatively good state, other than dehydration. On Saturday night the seal was offered local sardines, which it accepted. Treatments from now on will be administered through the fish fed to the seal, which will include lactated ringers, vitamins, cod liver oil and some grams of salt. The seal, named by Network volunteers as 'Iranú' (Taino indian word for 'woman'), spends most of its time resting in a shallow haul-out area, but at times swims in a deeper area.   As of August 7, this animal was alive and recuperating at the Caribbean Stranding Network at Universidad Metropolitana in San Juan. 

Although three additional hooded seals have been rescued in recent weeks, none have survived:

  • A second hooded seal was rescued in Bermuda last week (July 30-Aug 5), but died during transport. 
  • A third hooded seal was rescued in Anguilla on 3 August 2001, but the seal died during its first night. A necropsy will be conducted this week. 
  • A fourth hooded seal was observed alive on 3 August 2001 off Riding Rock Marina in San Salvador Island in the Bahamas. The animal was found dead on the afternoon of 4 August 2001. 

Only 2 other seals have been rescued by the Network in the past 9 years. The first, a young male was found off Camuy, Puerto Rico in 1993, was transported to Sea World for treatment but died 4 months later. The second seal, a molting male, was found in St. Johns, US Virgin Islands in 1996, but
died two weeks later due to sand impaction. 

We would like to alert all colleagues and government agency officials in the
southeastern US and Caribbean countries to this situation and to request that any sightings and strandings be documented thoroughly and reported to help assess these unusual events.

The Caribbean Stranding Network is also available 24-hours around the clock to assist anybody that finds a hooded seal in the Caribbean.  You may reach the Network by calling 787-399-1900, 787-399-8432 or 787-766-1717 x6600, email [email protected] or MSN Messenger at [email protected]

Additional Information:

Mignucci-Giannoni AA, Odell DK.  2001. Tropical and subtropical Western Atlantic records of hooded seals (Cystophora cristata) dispel the myth of extant Caribbean monk seals (Monachus tropicalis). Bulletin of Marine Science 68(1):47-58.