On The Line is a NOAA Fisheries podcast about marine fish and wildlife and their ocean habitats, with stories from people who study, manage and protect these valuable resources on behalf of the American public. Each podcast comes with photos and a short web feature story.
Welcome to the NOAA Fisheries Podcast. Dr. Michelle Barbieri: Hi everyone I'm Michelle Barbieri. Angela Amlin: And I'm Angela Amlin. MB: And we're here for the second episode of The Pohaku Chronicles. AA: Why don't we start with giving everyone an update on how Pohaku’s doing? MB: Yeah that sounds good. So we are happy to report that one of the the biggest milestones that we were really looking for and hoping for happened last week, that she was able to get out of the pool on her own. That's a really important milestone because of how it shows that she's returning to having better energy levels and improving in terms of her mobility overall, and that was just a really big cause for celebration. AA: That’s great. While she was here with us it was kind-of like she was in an intensive care unit type scenario and now she's been moved somewhere else so maybe talk a little bit about where she's been moved and what that means in terms of her progress. MB: Last week she was transported thanks to the U.S. Coast Guard over to the Big Island to Ke Kai Ola and Ke Kai Ola is run by The Marine Mammal Center they're one of our big partners and they are taking great care of her now. What's great about that facility is it's got multiple different options in terms of pool depths, there's a lot of haul out space and it's 100% shaded so it's really helping to keep her as comfortable as possible and give her all the options she needs as she recovers. AA: That’s fantastic news. MB: We still have a long way to go with Pohaku, and I think our end point remains to be seen. I know there are lots of challenges with treating a seal with so many medications for such a long period of time. And there's consequences to everything so there's a lot of trade-offs and cost-benefit analysis that go into this patient, for sure, but you know it's really encouraging that she's continuing to show signs of progress. I think the other thing that, you know, we we realize when she was here was that she developed an eye lesion and that's probably a result of having so many medications on board, having a weakened system that you know where we're really trying to help her get over this disease process and the secondary consequences of all of those things. Unfortunately in pinnipeds, eyes are a very delicate thing and eye problems are all too common, but I know that being in a facility where she's got 100% shade now will help her feel as comfortable as possible. So it’s really good that the Coast Guard was able to help and that Ke Kai Ola is on board with taking care of this precious patient. AA: Great. I know a lot of people have been following her story in the news and every time there's a new story posted there's a lot of questions that folks ask on social media, so we thought that maybe we would try to address a couple of the more common ones. MB: Yeah I mean there have been a lot of questions I think about where toxo comes from and some questions specifically I think about different species other than cats. Because we talked a lot about cats - but what are some of the other things you've seen in comments and questions? AA: Yeah, I think in general it’s hard for people to understand how a terrestrial parasite gets into the marine environment and particularly when it has to do with a specific animal. How could a parasite just you know target an animal like that - but that's just a very biologically interesting aspect of this parasite, is that it relies 100% on members of the family Felidae, or cats, which in Hawaii means just domestic cats, we don't have any native wild felids like they do on the mainland or in other areas. And the parasite can only sexually reproduce in the digestive system of a cat. It's pretty well documented in the literature, folks can check out the American Veterinary Medical Association website, that’s a really good resource for it. I think where it can get confusing for people is when we talk about how other animals can get infected. So any warm-blooded animal can get infected - a rat, a mongoose, a human, a bird. MB: So can rats and mongoose spread it too? AA: But yeah they cannot actually spread it - they don’t have the same biological components in their digestive system that a cat does, so the parasite can't reproduce and so those animals cannot shed the parasite in their feces. MB: So basically, to boil it all down, what we want to help people understand is that monk seals are only getting exposed from the parasite when it's put into the environment through the feces of cats. If a monk seal were to get exposed from a rat or a mongoose, or something like that actually have to eat that animal and eat the parasite that's in the animal's brain or muscle tissue, which we know is not happening in monk seals. AA: Right. Rats and mongoose aren’t jumping into the ocean, monk seals aren’t eating terrestrial warm blooded animals, so while a human, for example could get infected from, say, undercooked meat from a pig, that pig still would have had to get it from a parasite egg that was shed in the feces of a cat. So all the infections ultimately come back to the cat. MB: Well I think it's been a good topic to tackle, please continue to share questions and comments with us. We're really glad that the podcast was well received so far and we really want to keep doing these, so we want to hear from you, we want feedback, and we want your questions so keep ‘em coming. AA: Mahalo for listening! MB: Thanks! You’ve been listening to a production of the NOAA Fisheries Office of Communications. Thanks for listening. For more information visit www.fisheries.noaa.gov.
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Hear about the monk seal Pohaku's continued path to recovery from toxoplasmosis. This week we hear how the U.S. Coast Guard helped her travel to Ke Kai Ola, the Hawaiian Monk Seal Hospital.