Site icon Conservation news

How endangered are monk seals? Candid Animal Cam meets these underwater mammals

  • Every Tuesday, Mongabay brings you a new episode of Candid Animal Cam, our show featuring animals caught on camera traps around the world and hosted by Romi Castagnino, our writer and conservation scientist.

Camera traps bring you closer to the secretive natural world and are an important conservation tool to study wildlife. This week we’re meeting one of the most endangered seal species in the world: the Mediterranean monk seal.

Mediterranean monk seals (Monachus monachus) are coastal marine mammals that were once found across the Mediterranean and in parts of the eastern Atlantic and the Black Sea. Now the seals are scattered in three or four isolated populations across Mauritania in Africa, the Portuguese island of Madeira, and the Greek and Turkish coastlines. In total, there are only 350 to 450 mature Mediterranean monk seals left in the wild. The video footage was taken in the caves of the Inner Ionian Marine Protected Area in Western Greece. These marine caves are usually used by seals for resting and pupping.

In the past, Mediterranean monk seals were hunted by humans for their fur, oil and meat. Today there is no commercial exploitation of this species. Most of their decline nowadays is due to human impact, in the form of ocean pollution and the destruction of coastal habitats. They are also victims of deliberate killing by fishermen in retaliation for eating fish; and accidental entanglement and drowning in fishing nets. Thanks to conservation efforts in 2015 the species was upgraded by the IUCN from Critically Endangered to Endangered. To see a further increase in their populations, scientists recommend urgent protection of their habitat and mitigating negative interactions between seals and fisheries. Watch the video to learn more about this species!

Special thanks to Ted Karfakis/Terra Sylvestris for sharing their footage with us. Terra Sylvestris is a community based non-governmental organization based on the island of Kalamos in the Inner Ionian archipelago in Western Greece. Through the Kalamos and Kastos sustainable development project, it aims to protect and restore the unique environment of the area while helping local communities. As part of the marine ecosystem monitoring program at the Kalamos island biological field station, Terra Sylvestris has a camera trapping project for the monk seal. 

Banner photo: Mediterranean monk seal. Photo credit: Terra Sylvestris


Romi Castagnino is Mongabay’s bilingual writer. Find her on Twitter and Instagram: @romi_castagnino