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Monday, August 20, 2012

‘KP2’ forms bond between seal, author

By Terrie M. Williams Publisher: Penguin Press

If you're a sucker for a good animal story, or just a sweet face, for that matter, The Odyssey of KP2 might work for you.

KP2 is no ordinary Hawaiian monk seal, of course. Attacked by a male seal, possibly his father, when he was only 2 days old — an attack witnessed by group of islanders — the orphaned pup sets out on a journey told here with love by renowned wildlife biologist Terrie M. Williams.

"The little black pup who'd been abandoned on a lonely Kauai beach would beome an icon, a rogue and a threat," she writes. "The survival of an entire species would one day come to rest on his small and once discarded shoulders."

Only 1,100 such tropical seals currently swim around the Hawaiian Islands, making the seals the most endangered marine mammal in American waters. A viral epidemic that almost wiped out European harbor seals at the end of the last century, for example, would be catastrophic to the Hawaiian monks.

Williams arrives in Hawaii in 2009 to find KP2 already a local celebrity — with YouTube videos of his own and eventually a Facebook page — a wild seal who refuses to lead a seal's life, returning to the same beach over and over to entertain humans.

Do you feel a movie coming on?

Williams and the pup bond, becoming kindred spirits while she and volunteers frantically attempt to save him and his species. Will he gain weight? Will he swim? Is he blind? The questions keep coming.

"I soon had the strange feeling that this little monk seal was following me," Williams writes. She was right. The problem was the seal needed to be removed from potentially dangerous interactions with humans.

Williams eventually wins over detractors and takes him away from his natural habitat to her California lab.

"The troublemaker seal with a fondness for people was the one Hawaiian monk seal we could study in detail." And so she did, knowing that he could teach her enough to understand the seal's biology so it could be used to better its chances of survival.

What eventually happens to KP2 will be unveiled to those interested enough to wade through the almost 300 pages. Considering what could have happened, it's a happy ending.

View the original article here