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7th March, 2012

Veterinarian fined in monk seal beating case

According to Turkish press reports, the veterinarian charged with beating orphaned monk seal Badem during an ill-conceived ‘aversion therapy’ programme, has received a court sanctioned fine of 848 TL.  (approximately $470). It remains unclear whether the Foça town abattoir vet, Avni Gök, will be banned from future monk seal rehabilitations.

In response to questions from TMG, Turkish monk seal NGO SAD-AFAG, responsible for Badem’s rescue and on-again, off-again rehabilitation, insisted that it had neither approved nor was aware of the veterinarian’s training regime, video footage of which sparked widespread public anger. While condemning the actions of Gök, AFAG’s Cem Orkun Kirac suggested that the footage had been leaked by local opponents of AFAG rehabilitation projects, and that the veterinarian’s methods had not been inspired by cruelty or malice.

TMG’s opinion is that the training regime applied was at best driven out of ignorance and at worst represents a clear case of inexcusable animal cruelty. While Hawaiian monk seal researchers occasionally employ “aversive conditioning” to drive monk seals away from situations in which they or members of the public are deemed at risk, (1) these are applied within the specific situation in which such action is required, not in an enclosed pool where no such risk exists, and (2) utilise actions such as noise, lights or “waving a palm frond” at the animal — presumably not quite in the same league as beating it with a stick.

We understand that AFAG intends to issue an English language press release on the issue within a matter of days.

Sources: Fok Badem’i döven veterinere para cezası, Radical, 5 March 2012.

Jenkinson, E. M. 2010. Aversive conditioning and monk seal – human interactions in the main Hawaiian Islands: Aversive Conditioning Workshop, Honolulu, Hawaii, November 10-11, 2009. U.S. Dep. Commer., NOAA Tech. Memo., NOAA-TM-NMFS-PIFSC-25, 28 p. + Appendices. [PDF 268 KB]

20th February, 2012

Leaked ‘training’ video sparks anger

A leaked video purporting to show conservationists administering human contact “aversion therapy” to rehabilitated monk seal Badem, has sparked anger and indignation among academics and the general public both in Turkey and abroad.

The video, reportedly dated 3 April 2008, appears to show Badem’s carers hitting the seal repeatedly with a stick in what is assumed to be an effort to instil in the animal a reluctance to approach and interact with humans. TMG has requested clarification from the organisation responsible, the Mediterranean Seal Research Group (AFAG), and hopes to publish its response in due course.

The famous monk seal orphan has been in and out of captivity repeatedly due to her increasingly boisterous — and at times, dangerous — interactions with summer bathers.

The leaked video has appeared in major Turkish media outlets, including Milliyet and CNNTurk.


8th December, 2010

Police intervene to help Badem

Orphaned Mediterranean monk seal Badem, released from  summer captivity in November by her carers, SAD-AFAG, was soon sighted around the Datça Peninsula, according to various Turkish press reports. Although SAD-AFAG has stressed, and stressed again, the importance of avoiding contact with the rescued seal in order to help Badem lose her attachment to humans, curious onlookers continue to disturb and harass the animal.

In the latest case, police intervened to cordon off a boat on which Badem was resting, so that she could catch a few hours’ sleep.

Full Story and Gallery: Fok Badem polis yardımıyla dinlenebildi! CNN Türk.

3rd June, 2010

Just published: Monachus Guardian June 2010

Just published: the June 2010 issue of The Monachus Guardian, the biannual journal focusing on the Mediterranean, Hawaiian and Caribbean monk seals.

This issue of The Monachus Guardian brings a special focus to the Mediterranean monk seals shot and dynamited in the Eastern Mediterranean since January. What is actually being done to eliminate the single most serious mortality threat confronting the species?


Editorial: An epidemic of killings.

Hawaiian News: Seal numbers continue to dive…

Mediterranean News: Greece: Alarming numbers of dead seals… Mauritania: Record births at Cabo Blanco… Turkey: Monk seal deaths in the Turkish Aegean… New population size assessment study in the NE Mediterranean…

Cover Story: Markos’ Case: Trauma, treatment, and reflections, by Emily Joseph.

In Focus I: Monk seal killed by dynamite blast in the Aegean, by Anastasia Miliou.

In Focus II: Nefeli’s rehabilitation: methods, results, and challenges, by Emily Joseph.

Perspectives: The world’s two remaining monk seal species: how many different ways are there of being Critically Endangered? by Giuseppe Notarbartolo di Sciara.

Research: Mediterranean monk seal, Monachus monachus, re-sighted along the Israeli coastline after more than half a century, by Aviad Scheinin, Oz Goffman, Mia Elasar and Dani Kerem…

Recent Publications.

The current and back issues of The Monachus Guardian are also available from the Monk Seal Library <http://www.monachus-guardian.org/library.htm>.

12th April, 2010

Mediterranean seal Badem chooses to avoid tourist season

Press Watch, Hürriyet Daily News, April 12, 2010

Badem, probably the most famous Mediterranean Monk Seal, is back in Turkey after taking herself on a tour of the Greek island of Rhodes during the winter months. […]

The problem is that Badem is far too happy to be with humans and likes nothing better than to take a break by jumping into a dinghy for forty winks.

This all sounds very delightful, and sure enough, last month she was found in a dinghy near Marmaris, recuperating from her long swim from Rhodes back to Turkey where she likes to spend the summer months.

According to Zafer Kızılkaya, a representative of SAD/AFAG, “she was resting in a dinghy, but it seems some people took advantage of this, and we received reports that some people were kicking her and throwing stones at her. Unfortunately the attitude of many Turkish people is that, when they see an animal like Badem, they want to play with her, but really it’s more like torture. This is quite intolerable.”

→ Continue reading Mediterranean seal Badem chooses to avoid tourist season

30th January, 2010

Released again, Badem heads for Greece

Badem on Rhodes

Recently released from her temporary confinement in a specially-constructed pen in Gökova Bay, Turkey, orphaned seal Badem wasted little time swimming off to Greece [see New cage built for Badem]. Her first known port of call was the eastern Aegean island of Rhodes, and the popular port of Lindos.

Greek NGO MOm was alerted to the seal’s presence on 21 January 2010 by the Hydrobiological Station of Rhodes. Observers reported the animal displaying a range of unusual behaviours, including resting on small fishing boats in the harbour, and allowing people to pet it.

Following contact and information exchange with their Turkish counterparts SAD-AFAG (which undertook the rescue and rehabilitation of the orphaned seal in association with the SRRC of Pieterburen, the Netherlands), MOm dispatched its own experienced rescue staff to Rhodes in order to assess the situation, liaise with local bodies, and formulate a range of possible actions to deal with the ‘problem’ seal.

→ Continue reading Released again, Badem heads for Greece

8th January, 2010

Badem — new photos

Turkish daily Hürriyet has published a gallery of photos on Badem and her new temporary enclosure, funded by businessman Mustafa Koç.

The orphaned monk seal, whose interactions with swimmers and beachgoers  have become a source of concern to conservationists, is due again for release. SAD-AFAG, the NGO caring for her, has expressed the hope that she will adapt to the wild, and show less interest in humans.

Hürriyet gallery

3rd January, 2010

New cage built for seal Badem

Press Watch, Hürriyet Daily News, January 3, 2010

The new cage built for 'Badem,' a Mediterranean seal, cost 75,000 Turkish Liras. DHA photo

Badem, a Mediterranean seal that was found beached in Didim and had previously undergone many attempts at rehabilitation after being released into the wild in 2006 will now be kept in a special aquarium. The aquarium is in a bay in the popular resort town of Marmaris.

Businessman Mustafa Koç, Badem’s sponsor, had a special aquarium prepared for the seal that cost 75,000 Turkish Liras. In its new aquarium, Badem will get the chance to hunt live fish.

Zafer Kızılkaya, a member of the executive board of the Underwater Research Foundation, or URA, said the seal was very happy in its new aquarium and it would be released into the wild again soon, because it has grown into an adult and will need to mate. […]

Full Story