Mediterranean Monk Seal Breeding Site Discovered

The Mediterranean monk seal is classified as "endangered," with a total population of about 700. Image: Wikimedia

Scientists have discovered a previously unknown breeding site used by the world’s rarest seal species.

THE Mediterranean monk seal is classified as “endangered,” with a total population of about 700.

A new study, by the University of Exeter and the Society for the Protection of Turtles (SPOT), used camera-traps to confirm breeding in caves in northern Cyprus, with at least three pups born from 2016-19 at one cave.

Only certain caves are suitable for monk seal breeding and resting, so although the numbers are small, the researchers say urgent action is needed to protect these caves.

“This area of coastline in being developed rapidly, especially for construction of hotels,” said Dr Robin Snape, of the Centre for Ecology and Conservation on Exeter’s Penryn Campus in Cornwall.

“A survey of the coast in 2007 found 39 possible breeding caves, and some of these have already been destroyed. The main breeding site we identify in this study currently has no protected status, and we are working with local authorities to try to change this,” he said.

Lead author Dr Damla Beton added, “Another major threat to monk seals in this area is bycatch, accidental catching by fisheries. We are working with fishers and government ministries to ensure protection areas at sea, because at present no measures are implemented to mitigate bycatch in the core areas used by these seals.”

The team has now established long-term monitoring of the breeding caves, aiming to determine the size of this seal population.


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Written by

Deirdre Tynan

Deirdre Tynan is an award-winning journalist who enjoys bringing the best in news reporting to Spain’s largest English-language newspaper, Euro Weekly News. She has previously worked at The Mirror, Ireland on Sunday and for news agencies, media outlets and international organisations in America, Europe and Asia. A huge fan of British politics and newspapers, Deirdre is equally fascinated by the political scene in Madrid and Sevilla. She moved to Spain in 2018 and is based in Jaen.

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