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The Marine Mammal Center Holds Grand Opening and Blessing of New Hawaiian Monk Seal Hospital in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii

SAUSALITO, Calif., Sept. 3, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Sick and injured Hawaiian monk seals will get a second chance at survival thanks to The Marine Mammal Center's new Hawaiian Monk Seal Hospital, which is dedicated to the rescue and care of this critically endangered species.

Ikaika, a male Hawaiian monk seal pup, was one of the first four patients at The Marine Mammal Center’s Ke Kai Ola Hawaiian Monk Seal Hospital in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. Credit -- Koa Matsuoka, NMFS Permit 16632-00 and 932-1905-01MA-009526-1

On September 2, The Marine Mammal Center held a Grand Opening celebration and blessing at the new $3.2 million facility, which has been named Ke Kai Ola (The Healing Sea).

In addition to celebrating this milestone, the Center also celebrated the release of the first four patients treated at the hospital. Four young, malnourished monk seals were admitted to Ke Kai Ola on July 9 after being rescued in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. The Center's veterinary experts and trained volunteers cared for the seals until they were healthy enough to return to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands on August 31.

"We built this hospital to save a species," says Dr. Jeff Boehm, executive director at The Marine Mammal Center. "Thanks to funding from the Firedoll Foundation as well as a generous family foundation and hundreds of donors throughout the world, this hospital can now provide life-saving medical care."

The Hawaiian monk seal population is estimated at fewer than 1,100 individuals and continues to decline. Fewer than one in five pups in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands survive their first year due to threats like entanglement in ocean trash, changes in the food chain and predation.

"It takes a village to care for sick or injured monk seals," says Dr. Frances Gulland, Marine Mammal Commissioner and senior scientist at The Marine Mammal Center. "We are honored to bring our veterinary and husbandry experience and now partner with the National Marine Fisheries Service, whose work to date is responsible for saving about 30 percent of the monk seals alive today."

With the help of community volunteers, the Center will also conduct public outreach programs to provide education about Hawaiian monk seals and conservation efforts.

Learn more: http://www.marinemammalcenter.org/hms

About The Marine Mammal Center:

The Marine Mammal Center is a nonprofit veterinary hospital, research and educational center dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of sick and injured marine mammals. Since 1975, the Center has rescued more than 18,500 marine mammals. www.MarineMammalCenter.org

Photo - http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20140902/142148

SOURCE The Marine Mammal Center

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