The Mediterranean monk seal (Monachus monachus) is the most endangered European mammal. The number of surviving representatives of this species is estimated to total only between 500 to 600 individuals. These reside mainly in two large populations - one in the northeastern Mediterranean (Greece, Turkey, Cyprus) and the second in the NE Atlantic (Cap Blanc along the coast of West Africa and Mauritania and the deserted islands of the Madeira archipelago). Although in the past it was known as a regular resident of the Adriatic, and was even described scientifically when caught near Cres in 1779, since the mid 1960s their number has significantly decreased. Sightings are only occasional of specimens that come from the Mediterranean, probably from Greece, and thay have not been recorded breeding in this region.
Unfortunately, these observations are only a reminder of the fact that various human activities - including hunting and killing, fisheries, construction and urbanization in coastal areas, disturbance and pollution - have crowded out the monk seal. So, because of this, the monk seal chooses its habitat as isolated and inaccessible sea caves and beaches.
Despite sporadic reports of individual observations in the last few decades, the emergence of the Mediterranean monk seal in the Adriatic has only been confirmed recently. First photographically documented observations were made on the 12 June 2005. When the Blue World Institute researchers identified the photographs taken near the island of Silba.
Since then, Blue World regularly monitors these types of observations in the northern Adriatic. Given that the Mediterranean monk seal uses a large area it has many places to rest. Occasional observations around Cape of Premantura Kamenjak in Istria and Losinj have been made, yet there are wide areas of the coast in this region with limited accessibility where the seal could rest in peace. On the 24.06.2011 Blue World researchers recorded the movement of an individual under water (video on www.plavi-svijet.org/hr/znanost/vrste/sredozemna_medvjedica/), and subsequent inspection of the terrain we found underwater caves which may be used by the animals to rest.
The analysis of the available photos, we confirmed that this individual is the one observed in 2009 in Kamenjak, Istria.
Once again the monk seal has appeared. We recorded its presence in a cave in the Cres - Losinj archipelago.
Based on reports and photographs from canoeists from the Germany on 30.06.2012., Blue World Institute researchers went to review sites and found the monk seal, which was resting on a small beach within a sea cave on the western coast of Cres. The animal was about 2.5 m long and lay almost motionless on the beach. In subsequent examination of the cave and beach, we collected a small amount of biological material which will be analysed for DNA which would in the future help in determining the origin of this animal.
Through the analysis of the photographic and video material, we will try to determine whether it is the same specimen observed last year in this area.
Given that the Mediterranean monk seal is a critically endangered species, we ask all potential visitors not to disturb it and do not stay in its vicinity, and caves in which it resides. Also, please let us know about your observations.
On this occasion the Blue World Institute sincerely thanks all who have shared with us your encounters with this and other endangered species (whales, sea turtles, dolphins, sharks ...). Thank you also for the photographs and video material that we received. Also, we thank all those whose donations for "our" bottlenose dolphins which thereby enable the continuation of our work on research and monitoring of large marine vertebrates in the Adriatic Sea.
All information about our work and observations of the Mediterranean monk seal, photos and videos you can find our website www.blue-world.org and www.facebook.com / blueworldinstitute. For any other information please forward materials to:
Blue World Institute for Research and Conservation
Kastel 24, 51551 Veli Losinj
Tel 051 604666, Fax 051 604668
Thanks for your help and cooperation!
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