Endangered Hawaiian monk seals face new challenge: eels stuck up their noses


'If you come across a Hawaiian monk seal mom and pup, please stay quiet and enjoy them from a distance, remaining behind any signs or barriers that might be present'.

It's the question on everyone's lips at the moment - just why do seals keep getting eels stuck up their noses?

The uncomfortable sight on the Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program Facebook page has received over 1,000 shares, and left many wondering what is going on.

KTLV reports that this particular viral picture was taken over the summer on the French Frigate Shoals.

The post said that it had removed eels from the noses of several seals they're monitoring and that the seals were unharmed in every case, but the same couldn't be said for the eels.

Apparently the research org has only started seeing the eel-in-seal phenomenon within the last few years, despite having been researching the seals for more than four decades.

Monk seal researcher Charles Littnan, division director of the protected species division, said this is the third or fourth case scientists have observed of a seal with an eel in its nose. "We don't know if this is just some unusual statistical anomaly or if we will see more eels in seals in the future", NOAA said. The seals were all fine, but the eels did not make it, according to the scientists' post.

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'Hawaiian monk seals forage by shoving their mouth and nose into the crevasses of coral reefs, under rocks, or into the sand, ' the NOAA team explains.

'This may be a case of an eel that was cornered trying to defend itself or escape.

But, the researchers note, 'we might not ever know'.

According to National Geographic, Hawaiian monk seals' average lifespan is 25 to 30 years in the wild.

NOAA reports all of the eel-huffing seals have shown no ill effects from their fish-sniffing experiments.

Another possibility is that the seal downed the eel and then regurgitated it up the wrong way, much like that time you snorted out milk when your friend told you an unexpected joke. It was nearly like those magic trick scarves that keep pulling out of the hat'.