Science & Nature

Science & Nature

An unlikely hero escapes death to provide hope for his species

Science & Nature / KP2, also known as Hoailona, Mr. Hoa, Smoodgey and many other endearing nicknames, almost wasn’t. Unlike most Hawaiian monk seals that are born on the warm sands of our Islands, KP2 was immediately abandoned and harassed by his own mother, rather than nurtured. At only two days old, the seal pup was rescued.

The Odyssey of KP2 is an absolutely delightful portrayal of an extraordinary seal who doesn’t seem to know he isn’t human. Despite failing eyesight, KP2 has shown the world how incredibly smart monk seals are (he learned how to build traps for fish all on his own), as well as being studied by Dr. Terrie Williams at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Her book balances a scientist’s discoveries with the justification of her work, a plea to understand the interconnectedness of all forms of life, a personal journey and our relationship with the earth, but most of all, the wonderful spirit of a resilient and beautiful creature who now gleefully resides in the Waikiki Aquarium.

This tangle of threads is woven together in an engaging pattern, much like the attractive nets in which KP2’s kin meet their ends. The sad truth is that fewer than 1,100 Hawaiian monk seals remain today, and with the dangers of fishing hooks and trash appealing to them as playthings, these seals are constantly dying (not to mention being shot by angry fishermen). With delicate handling of a sensitive subject (some say that KP2 was “stolen” from our Islands for science experiments), Williams shows the world a rambunctious critter whose separation from his natural habitat has increased our knowledge of his species so that they may one day flourish.

The Odyssey of KP2: An Orphan Seal, a Marine Biologist, and the Fight to Save a Species

Terrie M. Williams

(Penguin Press, 2012)

Hardcover, 283 pages, $27.95