Headlines – News – Articles
3rd December, 2012

Automatic cameras record monk seals in the Desertas Islands

Rosa Pires, Parque Natural da Madeira

Pup with the females – “Female Y” and “Riscagrande” on Tabaqueiro beach. (Click to Enlarge)

Over recent years, camera monitoring systems have been installed on several occasions in Madeira’s Desertas Islands, yet failed to achieve the desired results.

This year, however, we obtained the first images of monk seals on site using a simple system, comprising an automatic camera.

On 26 October 2012, the system captured the first pup of the reproductive season — barely one day old.

The calf, a female, is healthy and being cared for by two females who share the role of mother. It is thought possible that one of them may have previously lost her own calf.

Pup with the “Female Y”, 20 days later. (Click to Enlarge)

It is hoped that the initiative, undertaken through the BES Biodiversity award, with the technical assistance of Spanish organization CBD-Habitat, will allow more effective monitoring of monk seals both on beaches and in caves. The system is also expected to prove its value during the current stormy season, which often prevents or inhibits firsthand observation.

By January or February 2013, we hope to have results from the camera system installed inside ‘Tabaqueiro’ — a maternity cave.


4th October, 2012

Monk seal monitoring cameras installed on Desertas Islands, Madeira

by Rosa Pires, Parque Natural da Madeira Service

Desertas camera installationFunded by the Portuguese bank Espírito Santo’s Biodiversity Award, Parque Natural da Madeira Service has installed four cameras in the area most frequented by monk seals on land — in Tabaqueiro cave and on Tabaqueiro beach, on the Desertas Islands of Madeira.

The PNMS team was assisted by CBD-Habitat Foundation of Spain, which has been developing and perfecting this method of monitoring the monk seal population since 1994, at the Côte des Phoques in the Western Sahara. The teams have been collaborating on monk seal conservation since 2008, under the framework of the “Action Plan for the Recovery of the Mediterranean Monk Seal in the Eastern Atlantic”, established under the auspices of the Bonn Convention.

The main goal of the Desertas camera initiative is to improve seal monitoring in the nature reserve, gaining a better knowledge of seal behaviour on land, while improving the photo-identification catalogue of this population. Should it prove successful, this monitoring method will be maintained in the Tabaqueiro area but also expanded to other areas that are used or have high probability of being used by monk seals. We eagerly await the next reproductive season — which begins in November — when seals will again use the Tabaqueiro area!

Center map

16th June, 2012

Scientists to strap cameras to Hawaiian seals

Media Watch, Washington Examiner, 15 June 2012

Some fishermen blame the endangered species for stealing their catch. There are unfounded rumors that they devour and deplete fish stocks. And at least four of them have been killed by humans in Hawaii since late last year.

To help correct the misconceptions, government scientists plan to glue submersible cameras onto the seals’ backs, using the footage to prove to fishermen the animals are not harming their way of life. It may even end up on reality TV. [More]

For further information on the project: http://www.monksealfoundation.org/research.aspx

Source: Scientists to strap cameras to Hawaiian seals, Washington Examiner, 15 June 2012.

3rd October, 2011

A tribute to Didier Marchessaux and the monk seals of the Western Sahara

Spanish filmmaker Rafa Herrero Massieu has released a brief film tribute to biologist Didier Marchessaux and his colleagues Alain Argiolas, Gerard Vuignier and Ely ould Elmine, who were killed in a landmine explosion on 16 October 1988 while researching the important Mediterranean monk seal colony in the disputed Western Sahara.

August / Agosto from Rafa Herrero Massieu on Vimeo.

31st August, 2011

Reflections on closed access journals

Media Watch, The Lairds of Learning, by George Monbiot, The Guardian, 29 August 2011

Editor’s Note: Despite oft-reapeated calls for monk seal conservation and science to find a wider public audience — thereby spurring efforts to save the species and its habitat — most research continues to be published in closed access “subscription-only” scientific journals with a limited circulation. In view of this issue’s importance to the survival of the Mediterranean and Hawaiian monk seal, we take this opportunity of drawing our readers’ attention to the following article, “The Lairds of Learning”.

[…] Reading a single article published by one of Elsevier’s journals will cost you $31.50(1). Springer charges Eur34.95(2), Wiley-Blackwell, $42(3). Read ten and you pay ten times. And the journals retain perpetual copyright. You want to read a letter printed in 1981? That’ll be $31.50(4).

Of course, you could go into the library (if it still exists). But they too have been hit by cosmic fees. The average cost of an annual subscription to a chemistry journal is $3,792(5). Some journals cost $10,000 a year or more to stock. The most expensive I’ve seen, Elsevier’s Biochimica et Biophysica Acta, is $20,930(6). Though academic libraries have been frantically cutting subscriptions to make ends meet, journals now consume 65% of their budgets(7), which means they have had to reduce the number of books they buy. Journal fees account for a significant component of universities’ costs, which are being passed to their students. […]

Source: The Lairds of Learning, by George Monbiot, The Guardian, 29 August 2011.

20th May, 2011

Identification of ciguatoxins in Hawaiian monk seals

Recent Publications

Marie-Yasmine Dechraoui Bottein, Lizabeth Kashinsky, Zhihong Wang, Charles Littnan, and John S. Ramsdell. 2011. Identification of Ciguatoxins in Hawaiian Monk Seals Monachus schauinslandi from the Northwestern and Main Hawaiian Islands. Environmental Science & Technology. DOI: 10.1021/es2002887. [Abstract]

2nd February, 2011

Hawaiian monk seal scoping report available

NOAA announcement, 1 February 2011

The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), Pacific Islands Regional Office (PIRO) has published the Scoping Summary Report for the Hawaiian Monk Seal Recovery Actions PEIS, which presents a public record and summary of the scoping activities that occurred from October 1, 2010 through November 30, 2010.  The report can be viewed online.

In the coming months, the Hawaiian Monk Seal Recovery Actions Draft PEIS will be released and a 60-day public comment period will be announced.

28th January, 2011

Musings: Trails and Seals

Media Watch, Joan Conrow, KauaiEclectic, 26 January 2011

[…] After swimming at the northern end of the beach, I was heading back when I spotted four men and two women mugging an endangered Hawaiian monk seal that I’d previously seen sleeping peacefully among the rocks. The seal’s face was covered with a net, but its eyes met mine and they conveyed terror, which left me with a sickeningly disturbed feeling that still lingers.

Although signs erected around a snoozing seal further down the beach warned the public to stay away, this group was allowed to conduct the equivalent of an alien abduction— taking blood and fat samples, swabbing all its orifices and gluing a radio transmitter onto its back — because they are federal scientists striving to protect the seal, or at least help us humans figure out how to do so — provided it doesn’t cause our species too much inconvenience.

While I understand the NOAA and NMFS folks have the very best intentions — which, as well know, also pave the proverbial road to hell — if you check out the Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for studying the dwindling seal population, you really have to wonder just how much trauma will be inflicted upon these native marine mammals in an effort to “recover” them. […]

Full Story: KauaiEclectic