Monk seal population rises

Two weeks ago we heard the news of the appearance of a monk seal in the Isla del Toro, Mallorca. This possibly isolated event coincides with some good news of the seal’s populations slow but hopeful recovery. The Cabo Blanco colony (between Western Sahara and Mauritania) saw the birth last year of 46 pups, practically the same as in 2006, and doubling those of previous years. The colony is now made up of 180 individuals of which some 50 are breeding females, demonstrating that it is finally beginning to recover from the mass epidemic caused by a toxic seaweed of the late 1990s which killed off 75% of the colony.

Elsewhere, in 2007 in Greece 28 pups were born, and in the Desertas Islands (Madeira), there are just three breeding females. The Algerian and Moroccan coasts support no more than 15 individuals. Source: La Crónica Verde

Distribution of monk seals. From The Monachus Guardian.

Figures of a world population of 500 Mediterranean monk seals are being quoted in the press though I can find no “official” figure. The Monachus Guardian states

“Thousands of islands, inaccessible coastlines, and a species that shies away from human contact have all conspired to make distribution and abundance assessments for the Mediterranean monk seal (Monachus monachus) an extraordinarily inexact science. Conventional wisdom, however, suggests that fewer than 600 individuals survive, making the Mediterranean monk seal Europe’s most endangered marine mammal

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