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June 20, 2018  |  Login

Mediterranean Monk Seal
Monachus monachus

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What Are They Like?

Mediterranean monk seals are one of the most endangered mammals in the world. They measure 7.5-9 feet (2.3-2.8 meters) in length and weigh approximately 660 pounds (300 kilograms). Mediterranean monk seals vary in color from dark brown and black to light grey, and are light grey along the stomach region.  The young pups are black with white or yellow stomachs until they reach adulthood. The life span of a Mediterranean monk seal is up to 30 years in the wild.

Where Do They Live?

Mediterranean monk seals live in the Mediterranean, Black, and adjacent seas, as well as North Atlantic waters from Morocco to Cap Blanc, Canary Islands, Madeira Islands, and Azores. They are native to Algeria, Greece, Mauritania, Portugal, Turkey and Western Sahara. In the Mediterranean, the stronghold for the species is on islands in the Ionian and Aegean Seas, and along the coasts of Greece and western Turkey. The seals’ habitats include open beaches, islands, underwater caves and mainland that is clear of terrestrial predators.

Did You Know?
Mediterranean monk seals are one of the least social pinnipeds when they are on shore, but may be more social in the water.

How Are Babies Made?

Mediterranean monk seals reproduce annually between the months of September to November. The gestation period is approximately 11 months; pups are born in caves or on the beach. During this time the mother must live off stored fat because she and her young are inseparable. Young stay with their mothers for up to three years before going off on their own.

What Do They Eat?

Mediterranean monk seals feed in shallow coastal waters where there is a variety of fish. Their diet includes eels, sardines, tuna, lobsters, flatfish, and mullets. They also feed on cephalopods such as octopuses.


What Do They Do?

Mediterranean monk seals do not migrate far. On land they have solitary habits, but in the water there can be up to 20 individuals in a colony. They are also a diurnal species, meaning they are active in the daytime.

How Concerned Should We Be?

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has listed the Mediterranean monk seal in a “Red List” of species in global endangerment as “critically endangered.” Their wild population is fragmented and declining slowly. Major threats to the Mediterranean monk seal include habitat destruction,(particularly of underwater caves), interactions with fisheries, pollution,and relocation forced by global warming. Additional risks include commercial harvesting, disease and oil spills.

What's Being Done?

Mediterranean monk seals are legally protected throughout their range and are listed on the US Federal List as endangered and on CITES Appendix I. There are plans for nature reserves to preserve habitat in these areas fin the near future. Restrictions on fishing practices and monitoring systems are becoming more established with time to locate and determine the movement of their population. The IUCN Species Survival Commission Seal Specialist Group created a Conservation Action Plan to conserve the Mediterranean monk seal, which includes the involvement of local fishermen, research on the species’ status and the captive breeding program. Also, the WWF is currently working with organizations in Greece, Turkey and Mauritania to increase fish stocks and protect monk seal habitat. Several reserves and no-fishing zones have been created around monk seal habitat, and various education programs have been implemented with the aim of increasing public awareness of monk seal conservation.


IFAW Last Call for the Mediterranean Monk Seal

Mediterranean Monk Seal in Coastal Waters

Mediterranean Monk Seal Giving Birth

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