monk seal

Monk seal record

March 17th, 2010

The largest surviving monk seal population in the world, at Cabo Blanco (between Western Sahara and Mauritania), has broken its modern record with 51 pups born in 2009. The breeding season began in May and the maximum number of births took place in August and September with 13 births each. Also, a new group of young females were identified this year as reproductive individuals, increasing the reproductive potential of the colony. Crónica Verde Blog

The conservation project is led by Spanish scientists. Spain sees the conservation of Cabo Blanco colony of monk seals a priority as the species was once common off its coasts. A small group of monk seals survived in Cabo de Gata, Almeria until the 1960s. In 2009, for the time in 50 years a Monk seal was spotted off coast of Mallorca.

The Cabo Blanco colony saw the birth in 2008 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.

Distribution of monk seals. From The Monachus Guardian.

Monk seal population rises

July 2nd, 2008

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

Monk seal spotted off coast of Mallorca

June 17th, 2008

Remarkable news. A diver from Palma claims to have seen (and taken photo above) a possible monk seal (foca monje – Monachus monachus) in the marine reserve of Isla del Toro. The monk seal is considered to be extinct is the Balearic Islands (where it was known popularly as the vell marí – old man of the sea) since the late 1950s, and is among the ten most endangered mammals in the world, with colonies divided between Mauritania and the Eastern Mediterranean, the former being far the stronger. If true, I imagine we are talking about an animal in dispersion or just plain lost. The Balearic government periodically considers the possibility of attempting to reintroduce the animal. Whether it would fare well in an area of sea so popular with pleasure craft is another question. See more in El País

Update: this version of the story from Libertad Balear is much better researched.

There is also a half plan to reintroduce the animal along the Costa Brava (La foca monje volverá a Cadaqués – El País)

A small group of monk seals survived in Cabo de Gata, Almeria until the 1960s.

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