Cyprus Mail
Cyprus

SOS to locate baby monk seal

The fishery department said on Wednesday it was concerned about a baby monk seal that got separated from its mother, saying that its life is in danger if not rescued very soon.

The monk seal or Monachus monachus which was spotted on its own in Paphos harbour on Tuesday is less than eight weeks old and should be with his mother in the place where it was born.

Instead it was located several kilometres away, probably due to the current in the area, and is therefore at risk of dying.

“If the animal cannot find its mother, then it will be starving and bacteria will develop because of a shortage of breast milk,” the marine and fishery department said in a statement.

According to the department, newborn seals are about 1 to 1.5 metres long and weigh 15 to 20 kilos.  Their dark brown to black coat is 1 to 1.5 centimetres in length and is replaced after 6 to 8 weeks by the characteristic coat of adult animals.

“From the photographic material posted, this baby has not yet passed the stage of changing its coat,” the fisheries department stated.

Though it can swim, it cannot feed on its own but is dependent on its mother as the lactation period of monk seals lasts for about two months.

People are asked to contact the Marine and Fishery Department of the Environment Ministry immediately if they spot the baby seal in the sea or on a beach where it may have gone to rest by calling 22-807841 or 99-489641 or by emailing [email protected]

The Mediterranean monk seal is the rarest of the 33 species of seals which exist and is considered the number one endangered marine mammal in Europe. Its population in the Mediterranean is about 600. Half of them live in the marine area of ​​Greece, while in Cyprus there are estimated to be just seven 7 to 10.

The fishery department is always on the lookout for new sightings of the mammals, each of which is recorded in the ministry’s database.

Short videos of monk seals have also been posted via social media, and some recent ones from Cyprus can be seen on YouTube.

True to their name “monachus monachus” in Latin and “monk” in English, they don’t move around in colonies but people usually see one at a time, maximum two.

The critically endangered species is threatened by tourism and a loss and degradation of habitats in Cyprus as in other Mediterranean countries, but apart from that faces no particular problems here.

As there are so few, they are not disturbed by fishermen. On the contrary, they feed them in ports, according to the department of fisheries and marine research which has carried out surveys in the past and started a monitoring programme in 2011. Monk seals have been a protected species since 1971 in Cyprus.

 

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