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19th January, 2012

Cruise ship wreck a threat to monk seals

Media Watch, New Scientist, 18 January 2012

The huge scale of the Costa Concordia disaster is apparent in this satellite image of the stricken cruise ship just off the Italian island of Giglio.

The oil boom that aims to protect the coast from fuel leaks from the ship’s giant tanks is visible trailing along the left-hand side. The island and its surrounding waters are part of the Tuscan Archipelago National Park, which is home to the endangered Mediterranean monk seal. […]

Editor’s note: For more detailed information on the monk seal at Giglio, see Italy.

Source: Costa Concordia cruise ship pictured from space, New Scientist, 18 January 2012

21st November, 2011

About the monk seal photo taken at Giglio Island (Tuscan Archipelago) on 7 June 2009…

Letters to the Editor

The last issue of TMG included a “photo quiz” promoted by the Italian Monk Seal Group – Gruppo Foca Monaca: the photo was one out of 41 shots taken by a tourist from a low cliff near the tower of Campese, on the north-western part of Giglio, and the marine mammal was at about 20 meters distance from the coast. The sighting lasted for more than half an hour, and other people were present. TMG staff comment was very clear: “As far as TMG is concerned… we think we see two seals (to judge from the stretched appearance and the subtle foreground shape…)”.

The quiz picture

Photo 1 and 2 (Courtesy Marco Prete)

I would like here to give my personal evaluations to the event. As GFM, we made an accurate evaluation of the photo (including all the others), and we reached the same conclusion: the presence, at the same moment and in the same place, of two animals, something that was not at all noticed by the photographer.

One of the two seals was sighted many times (approx. 10), from 11:58 up to 12:35. The photos were taken in this lapse of time with a professional Canon, using a 200 mm zoom, and with 3 shots/second setting.

The animal looked very disturbed, raising the head out of the water, a behaviour clearly visible in the photo no. 1, the first of seven shots, where the sixth (photo no. 2) shows how the seal was looking towards “something” just behind, and not towards the observers that were standing up on the cliff.

Photo 3 (Courtesy Marco Prete)

A second sequence of three shots (11:59) shows the second seal diving (photo no.3): it is possible to notice the difference from the first seal looking at the skin colour, much darker (typical of adult males). Have a look at the insets included in the same picture: the colour is much lighter.

Several shots, including the one featured in the “photo quiz”, show the lighter seal together with a part view of hind flippers, placed in a position impossible to be its own: the most likely explanation is that the other seal was just underneath, trying to catch her: a behaviour suggestive of courtship.

Photo 4 (Courtesy Marco Prete)

Finally, within the lapse of time between the first and the last picture, the lighter seal did not move away from the cliff, but – as it is shown in the last photo (photo no. 4) – she came closer, further confirming that she did not care very much about the people watching her from the rocks.

If I can add some further considerations to the description of the behaviour of such a still rather unknown species, (I guess somebody could define it as enriched by personal “insights”), I must admit that I was a bit frustrated by the fact that there were no other notes or comments to the “photo quiz”, apart from the one of TMG. This aspect can be assumed as a clear symbol of the lack of ideas or information exchange among the community dealing with monk seal study and conservation. I am personally convinced that monk seals can be saved only through a sincere and clear exchange of ideas and information among all those involved in their conservation. I unfortunately learned, on several occasions, that this does not happen at all, and this “behaviour” often involves those that work “professionally” on the issue. The reasons for such “scientific discretion” can vary and are sometimes understandable, but we should not forget that the monk seal is one of the rarest species on earth, and any information, even partial, is extremely important for the conservation community, to improve the protection.

Emanuele Coppola – Gruppo Foca Monaca Italia

Photo gallery containing all the photos from Giglio: http://www.naturaindiretta.com/gfm/giglio/index.htm

TMG replies: After making comparisons with other photographs of adult female Mediterranean monk seals TMG had to reverse its opinion that “we think we see two seals” in the picture of the “photo quiz”. Comparing pictures, we thought it much more likely that it shows just one animal. Also now, after finally seeing all the pictures in the gallery, we see no convincing evidence to the contrary. — Matthias Schnellmann

6th November, 2011

New monk seal sightings in Italy

— Luigi Guarrera – Gruppo Foca Monaca Italia

Sighting at Giglio

GFM – Gruppo Foca Monaca Italia reports two recent, confirmed monk seal sightings along the Italian coasts.

The first one took place in July in the same area where in 2002 a young monk seal was observed for a considerable time and many photos taken, Metaponto, in southern Italy (Basilicata). Some tourists from Trento saw, not far from the shore, and for about an hour, a couple of adult  seals with a “playing attitude” (probably courtship). Unfortunately they did not have any camera or mobile with camera, but — when interviewed — gave very detailed information about the sighting.

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4th July, 2010

La foca monaca ritorna a Portofino!

Press Watch, Area Marina Protetta Portofino, June 18, 2010

avvistato nelle acque della nostra Area Marina Protetta un esemplare adulto di Monachus monachus

Venerdì 18 giugno lo staff del diving center “Massub” ha avvistato e fotografato, nella zona B dell’Area Marina Protetta (AMP), un esemplare di foca monaca di poco meno di 2 metri di lunghezza. Questa piacevole ed inaspettata notizia avviene proprio nell’anno internazionale della biodiversità; questa visita dimostra come le AMP siano dei veri e propri “santuari naturali” capaci di tutelare la biodiversità attraendo nuovamente specie scomparse. Ormai undici anni di gestione nell’AMP Portofino fanno sì che alcune specie di pesci (come Epinephelus marginatus), che erano pressoché scomparse, siano ora presenti, e in taglie considerevoli; proprio in questo contesto si inserisce la visita della foca monaca che, essendo ghiotta di grossi pesci non reperibili altrove, crediamo sia stata spinta a visitare la nostra AMP.

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17th June, 2009

Monk seal sighting at Giglio Island

by Luigi Bundone and Luigi Guarrera, Gruppo Foca Monaca
Giglio Island, Italy, 7 June 2009 (Photo Marco Prete)

Giglio Island, Italy, 7 June 2009 (Photo Marco Prete)

Last Sunday 7 June, in the waters of Giglio Island, Tuscan Archipelago, another individual was sighted not far from the tower of Giglio Campese. The encounter lasted for about two hours, thanks in part to the considerate attitude shown by people present during the event. Franca Zanichelli, the Director of the National Park of the Tuscan Archipelago, released a short interview to the Italian press agency ANSA: “I am really enthusiastic, we have immediately verified the sighting together with GFM Italia, a group we cooperate with since a long time. In fact I am not so much surprised by the news: I am pretty aware that, even if these animals are rare, they still live in our sea. And the behaviour of the observers was very good, they did not disturb the seal, receiving as a perfect gift in exchange an experience that would represent an impossible dream for many naturalists”.

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9th June, 2009

Rare monk seal spotted

Press watch — ANSA, June 9, 2009

Endangered species disappeared from Italy 20 years ago

(ANSA) – Grosseto, June 9 – An extremely rare example of a Mediterranean monk seal, believed to be the world’s most endangered pinniped, has been spotted off the Tuscan island of Giglio. […]

”It showed off for about two hours, surfacing and diving, coming and going,” said Marco Prete, who was among tourists sunbathing on rocks when the seal appeared and managed to take some shots with his camera.

”Luckily there were only a few of us there to see it, and nobody decided to jump in the water so it could enjoy itself undisturbed just a few metres from the rocks,” he told the local Giglio News.

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