monachus guardian monk seal

Dedicated to Monk Seals and their Threatened Habitats


20 June 2008

Sighting in Mallorca

© calumet diving®

It was an exceptional event by any standards, yet even more so when one realises that the Mediterranean monk seal has been considered extinct in Spain and the Balearic Islands for more than half a century.

In what may turn out to be a pivotal moment in the species' future recolonisation of the Balearics, a confirmed sighting of a single Mediterranean monk seal was made in the marine reserve of Isla del Toro, Mallorca, at 11.30 hrs on 15 June.

The sighting was made – and photographed – by a diver from Palma, Alvaro Garí. This is the third such observation in recent weeks, though the only one to have been confirmed by photographic means.

The monk seal has been extinct in the Balearic Islands since the 1950s. Scientists, conservationists and government officials are keen to see the return of the species, and have implemented various conservation measures to prepare for or encourage a return, including the establishment of protected areas and a range of educational and public outreach programmes [see Reversible absence, TMG 11 (1): June 2008].

Experts are now travelling to the site to investigate the sighting further, and evaluate possible courses of action.

With this individual likely to be a vagrant rather than a Balearic resident born and bred, speculation will doubtless focus on its origins (Algeria? Morocco? Sardinia?), as well as means of ensuring its protection.

We shall be carrying further reports from Mallorca as soon as they become available.

Further info

Un equipo de buceadores fotografía en Mallorca una foca que podría ser monje, después de 50 años. Libertad Balear, 18.06.2008.

Monk seal spotted off coast of Mallorca. Iberia Nature, 17.06.2008.

¿Es esto una extinta foca monje? El Pais, 17.06.2008.

Badem under armed guard

Hürriyet photo gallery

Photos from the Hürriyet photo gallery.

With the tourist season now well underway along Turkey's Aegean coast, orphaned monk seal pup Badem continues to make friends – but also enemies [see Ambassador with Attitude, TMG 11(1): June 2008].

Three armed gendarme officers have now been assigned to watch over the seal, following threats by a speargun diver that he would harpoon the animal. It is believed that threats by others may also have prompted that official action, as well as appeals by SAD-AFAG, the organisation monitoring Badem's welfare.

At the same time, concerns over the safety of bathers have prompted demands by local officials that Badem be recaptured and taken to an area less frequented by tourists and bathers. Seal carers have already intervened on a number of occasions to remove Badem from interactions with curious onlookers and tourists.

The most recent translocation appears to have taken place on or around 6 June, with Badem being returned to the quieter area of Karacasöğüt, where she previously spent time in February at the Karaca fish farm [see Badem wanders freely in Gökova Bay, TMG 11(1): June 2008].

While some beach-goers have ignored warnings not to interact with Badem, innocent swimmers have also sustained bites and scratches when encountering the playful seal in the sea. Of the injuries reported, several have been described as “serious”; an apparent near-drowning involving a 65-year old man has also been reported.

Below, we continue with another selection of recent press and media coverage of Turkey’s famous seal.

Press Watch

Badem faces death threats

DIDIM’s adopted seal Badem has been assigned three gendarme officials after one man threatened to harpoon it.

The seal, which injured a number of people last week in Bodrum, including Asım Küçükosmanoğlu who was trying to play with him, caused one person to threaten to harm the hapless animal. [...]

Not leaving the Bodrum Ören Beach for days, Badem was again the centre of attention last week when he [sic] bit several people, including 65-year-old lawyer Küçükosmanoğlu who almost drowned due to the incident.

However, the incident took another twist, when members of the public heard beach lover Murat Sert expressing a rather less than positive view of the seal.

Mr Sert claimed that, like many others, he was timid of going in the sea and feared Badem. He said: “I have come here to swim. Yet I can not because Badem attacks.

“I have as much right as him to swim. If Badem comes across me when I am fishing with a harpoon, I will have no mercy for him. I will kill him and nobody can say a word.”

His forthright views aroused animal lovers who stated they were going to place a criminal complaint against Sert.

In the meantime, Badem all at sea, while three Gendarmes walk the beach to ensure no harm comes to him.

Badem faces death threats, The Voices Newspaper, 15 June 2008.

Badem bites back

DIDIM’s adopted seal Badem, which was released back into the wild last year, has hit the headlines again – for biting ten people. [...]

Despite warnings from the authorities, people showed too much interest in Badem, causing him to bite back to retain his freedom.

Last week Badem bit six university students who were trying to pull him by the tail to the shore and also 65-years-old German tourist Hans Gutshce. The German had five stitches in his legs.

When Badem bit three more people, who attempted to stroke him, the Underwater Mediterranean Monk Seal Research Group took action to protect Badem and prevent him from hurting others.

The group is sending a team to protect the seal during summer. [...]

The Research Group will also ask for safety measures from the Gendarme Headquarters and Ministry of Environment and Forestry for people not to play with Badem at the shores he visits.

Member of Mediterranean Monk Seal Research Group, Zafer Kızılkaya expressed that great responsibility fell on people to help Badem return to wild life.

He said: “Those who swim and play with Badem, from time to time make him feel ill at ease despite of all our warnings. This causes him to get aggressive and bite people around him.

“People should not forget that Badem is one of the last 100 of the endangered species of Mediterranean Monk Seals left on the coast of Turkey.”

Badem bites back, The Voices Newspaper, 9 June, 2008.

The seal Badem under SAD control

The seal that bit 6 persons, one a German, on the Akyaka shore of Muğla's city of Ula, is being monitored by the Underwater Research Association (SAD). Zafer Kızılkaya, an underwater photographer and member of SAD, who has been watching the seal named Badem, asked the public to leave the seal alone and to remember that after all, it is a wild animal.

Badem, who has made his home in the bay of Gökova, got tired of too much attention and bit and hospitalized 6 persons, one of them a German. Badem, after being treated by the Underwater Research Association in the rehabilitation center in Foça, İzmir, last year, was released in Muğla.

After a group of university students attempted to pick Badem up and deposit him on the shore last Saturday, the seal bit six swimmers and disappeared. Members of the Underwater Research Association found Badem swimming off the shore of Cedrea Island in Gökova Bay, took him on board and released him off the Karacasöğüt shore.

Zafer Kızılkaya, official of the Underwater Research Association and a professional underwater photographer, said that in spite of many warnings, people still make a fuss of Badem, and he attacks if he is disturbed by too much attention. He said, “We keep warning people. Too much attention makes it difficult for Badem to adapt to its natural environment. And when people try to touch him, he attacks. This animal has to adapt to the local environment.

The seal Badem under SAD control, Sun Express, 7 June 2008.

Further info

Ambassador with Attitude, TMG 11 (1): June 2008.

Photos from the Hürriyet photo gallery:

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