Mediterranean monk seal

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Phocidae
Genus: Monachus

Length of male: 240 cm
Length of female: 238 cm
Weight of male: 315 kg
Weight of female: 300 kg

Classified as Critically Endangered (CR) by the IUCN Red List 2007. Listed on Appendix I of CITES and Appendices I and II of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS, or Bonn Convention).


The Mediterranean monk seal is one of the most endangered mammals in the world. The description of this species by Aristotle was the first known written description of a pinniped (a group that includes seals, sea lions and walrus), and the head of a monk seal appeared on one of the first ever coins, around 500 BC. Adults have a brown or grey coat, which becomes paler on the undersurface and males often feature a white patch on the belly. Old males are darker in colour and often become black, but retain the ventral white patch. Newborn infants are black and woolly with a white or yellow patch on the belly, the shape of which can sometimes be used to determine the sex of an individual.

Once widespread throughout the Mediterranean, the Black Sea and the northwestern coast of Africa, this monk seal has suffered a devastating decline. It is now restricted to a handful of small and scattered colonies in the Ionian and Aegean Seas and the southern coast of Turkey in the Mediterranean, as well as scattered populations on the coasts of the western Sahara and Mauritania, and the Desertas Islands, Madeira. It is thought that just two of these populations are viable, in Greece and northwest Africa. The species has not been seen in the Black Sea for over five years. Although no reliable estimates of total population size exist, it is thought to number between just 400 to 500 individuals, and is declining.

Comments are closed.

Partners sponsor