Forget the first baby born in 2014, Hawaii is all abuzz about the first monk seal pup born in the new year.
The Hawaiian monk seal is the second-most endangered marine mammal in the United States -- their population is currently hovering around 1,100 -- so when a new one is born, it's as celebrated as a royal birth.
The mother of 2014's newest pup is known as "Honey Girl." She frequently hangs out on Oahu's North Shore and lucky onlookers were able to witness her giving birth near Turtle Bay last week.
Sadly, newborn monk seals only have a 20% chance of survival. Their mothers stay on the beach with them for about six weeks to nurse, but then leave them to fend for themselves. When the pups' mothers leave, they crave affection, turning to sea turtles, branches, and even humans for hugs. Roughly 200 monk seals live around the inhabited Hawaiian islands, and humans tend to be their biggest threat.
"Honey Girl" knows this threat all too well. In 2012, she was found near death with a fish hook in her cheek and a badly infected tongue.
"When we got out to see her, she was in terrible shape, was severely emaciated," Rachel Sprague, Assistant Hawaiian Monk Seal Recovery Coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told Hawaii News Now. "There was a reasonable expectation that she was not going to make it."
"Honey Girl was nursed back to health, however, and proved to be very resilient.
"For her to go from the condition she was in to now being a mom again and contributing to her species recovery is very exciting," Sprague said.
We hope "Honey Girl" can pass on some of that resiliency and strength to her newborn.