Alonissos tends monk seal pup
Joe Mason: March 2011
Alonissos tends monk seal pup.
A Mediterranean monk seal pup (monachus monachus) is currently being cared for at a seal rehabilitation centre on the Greek island of Alonissos. Conservationists rescued the two-month-old monk seal, one of only about 600 of the creatures that remain in the wild.
A research team based on the Greek holiday island spotted the pup in February while watching a seal colony in the south-western Aegean Sea.
Workers are feeding the seal and aim to return it to the wild. With fewer than 600 individuals remaining the monk seal is now believed to be the world's second rarest seal and is classed as one of the most endangered mammals in the world.
Once common in the Mediterranean it is believed that habitat loss, fishing and tourism are to blame for the sharp decline since World War Two.
Known to inhabit open sandy beaches and shoreline rocks in ancient times, the Mediterranean monk seals now mostly lives in remote underwater caves. Colonies were once common throughout the Mediterranean as well as the Marmara and Black Seas.
The species was also common on the Atlantic coast of Africa and the Atlantic islands of Cape Verde, the Canaries and the Azores.
Now there are just two monk seal population left, one in the seas around Alonissos and the other off the coast of north-west Africa. The National Marine Park of Alonissos Northern Sporades was aet up in 1992 partly to protect the monk seal habitat.
It is the largest marine protected area in Europe and includes Alonissos, the six smaller islands of Peristera, Kyra Panagia, Gioura, Psathoura, Piperi and Skantzoura as well as 22 uninhabited islets and rock outcrops.