Endangered Baby Monk Seals Recuperating in Turkey


Two seal pups at the Mediterranean Monk Seal Rehabilitation Center in Foça. Photo: SAD-AFAG / Cem Orkun Kıraç

Two injured young Mediterranean monk seals are recuperating successfully at a wildlife rehabilitation center in Foça, a town on Turkey's northern Aegean coast. The pups, who belong to a rapidly dwindling population of just 100 seals in Turkey, were rescued on the same December day after becoming separated from their mothers in a heavy storm and carried out to sea. But while things look good for these two fortunate seals, the fate of their species depends on stemming the development so rampant along Turkey's coasts.In the past, hungry seals often ran afoul of fishermen when they tried to poach something to eat from their nets. But according to the Turkish newspaper Radikal:

Mediterranean monk seals being killed by fishermen is not the epidemic it was in the past. [Today], it is the shores that are being killed by concretification and opening to development. No untouched coastal spaces are left that we cannot reach with a road.

More Bays To Be Developed
Just last weeks, representatives of the tourism sector in the Aegean region called for some 200 bays between Marmaris and Datça to be opened to tourism and development, a proposal environmentalists said would "sacrifice our uniquely beautiful bays in order to earn a little more money." It would also add to the pressure on the endangered monk seal, which, despite its name, is found in both the Mediterranean and the Aegean.

Turkey's monk seals rely on safe, empty shorelines and coastal caves to hunt, give birth, nurse their young, sleep, and rest, Radikal wrote. For this reason, the Underwater Research Society - Mediterranean Seal Research Group, which works to protect both the seal and its ecosystem, has as its motto: "To protect the Mediterranean monk seal is to protect the Mediterranean."

Injured Pups On The Mend
The two injured young pups currently being treated in Foça are thought to have been being nursed in a coastal cave when they were swept out to sea, and to have floated in open water for at least 48 hours before they were found in the Mediterranean towns of Bozyazı and Kaş. "The seals had also been hit against rocks by the waves, injuring their bellies, jaws, and flippers," Radikal wrote. "Due to lack of nourishment they were very exhausted and were determined to be suffering from dehydration."

With lots of love and care, and regular feedings of high-quality fish blended into porridge, the baby seals are putting on weight and recovering their health. Saving the Mediterranean monk seal species, which has diminished dramatically due to hunting, habitat destruction, and over-fishing, will not be so easy.

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Tags: Animals | Endangered Species | Oceans | Turkey

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