Monk Seal

Hawaiian Monk Seal

Size: 2.1 - 2.3 m (7 - 7.5 ft).

Weight: 170 - 250 kg (375 - 450 lb).

This endangered seal lives around small islands in the north-western region of Hawaii and other remote Pacific islands. Hawaiian monk seals hunt flatfish, lobsters, eels, and octopuses. Outside of the breeding season, these seals live alone. The females give birth on sandy beaches in areas controlled by the largest males. They then mate with the male in that area. The offspring from these matings are born the next year.

Caribbean Monk Seal

Size: 2.2 - 2.4 m (7.25 - 8 ft).

Weight: 170 kg (375 lb).

This species was declared extinct in 1996, the last confirmed sighting being in 1952. The Caribbean monk seal once ranged throughout the Caribbean. It was thought to spend much of its time underwater, so it is possible that a small population still survives but is either rarely seen or is mistaken for another species.

Mediterranean Monk Seal

This monk seal is possibly Europe’s most endangered mammal, with only about 500 animals remaining in small, scattered groups around the Mediterranean and Black Sea. There is also a small isolated population off the Atlantic coast of Mauritania, in West Africa. They used to occur throughout the Mediterranean, out into the eastern Atlantic.

The Mediterranean monk seal faces a number of major threats, particularly in developed areas of the Mediterranean where it was once common. Monk seals are very intolerant of disturbance. If a pregnant female is distressed, she will abort her foetus, and mothers may desert their young. The increasing development of the Mediterranean and Black Sea coastlines has meant that there are fewer and fewer secluded spots left for these peaceful animals. They also suffer from hunting pressure and from becoming entangled in fishing nets. Being mammals, all seals have to breathe air; if they get caught in fishing nets and held underwater, they drown before too long. Overfishing and persecution by fishermen — who blame the seals for declining catches — have accelerated their decline, and pollution in the Mediterranean remains a constant threat. What was thought to be an epidemic of disease also wiped out a major proportion of the surviving population on the North African coast in 1997, and relatively few reserves for them currently exist.

This is the darkest seal of the region, uniformly dark brown except for a white patch on the belly.

Females give birth to their young in grottoes and sea caves. Those with underwater entrances are particularly favoured. Youngster monk seals  stay with their mothers for about three years, learning how to fish and interact with other seals before seeking their own territories.

Distribution: The major surviving population is around Greece, but individuals are still present on the northwestern coast of Africa and in the northeastern Atlantic.

Habitat: Subtropical coastline.

Weight: 245 - 315 kg (550 - 662 lb).

Length: 240 - 280 cm (94 - 110 in).

Maturity: Females 3 - 5 years; males 5 - 6 years.

Gestation Period: About 341 days; mating takes place in the water.

Breeding: 1; weaning occurs by 17 weeks.

Diet: Feeds on a variety of fish, such as sardines, tuna and mullet, also lobsters and cephatopods, notably squid and octopus.

Lifespan: 18 - 35 years.

Status: Critically endangered.

Ears

There are no external ear flaps on the ears.

Flippers

The flippers are quite short and end in short daws.

Nostrils

These are prominent, long and pointed upwards.

Coat length

The fur of the Mediterranean monk seal is shorter than that of any other seal.

Colouration

Females are brownish with lighter underparts and blotching, while males are black, with white on the belly.

BIRTHING CAVES

Females now tend to give birth along very inaccessible parts of coastline, often seeking out the relative safety of caves.

Gallery of Monk Seal