07 October 2009

New hope for monk seals at Cabo Blanco

CBD-Habitat documented a monk seal birth in the Mediterranean colony located in the Cabo Blanco peninsula (Morocco/Mauritania), as reported yesterday to the MARMAM list.

On September 22nd, a newborn pup was observed in an open beach. There are no records of such an event in decades, in which seals were persecuted leading them to abandon open beaches and use exclusively marine caves to haul out and breed.

Acording to CBD-Habitat, one of the main set of actions of the Action Plan for the recovery of Mediterranean monk seal in the Eastern Atlantic developed by the governments of Spain, Portugal, Morocco and Mauritania was to “promote the occupation of beaches as breeding and resting habitat”.

During the last 9 years, and under these guidelines established by the Action Plan, the protection of breeding caves and vicinities by CBD-Habitat project has been intense reducing to a minimum disturbances caused by goose barnacle pickers, fishermen as well as the threat of illegal setting of artisan fishing gears in the area.

After years of continuous efforts, monk seals have began to progressively re-colonize open beaches of the protected area for hauling out. The final step, the use of open beaches as breeding habitat is the event that took place in September, perhaps the beginning of a new conservation path for this colony.

The pup is a female and is in good shape condition. The birth took place in a beach located a few hundreds of meters south of one of the main breeding caves.

This fact joins the progressive recovery of the population, which in 1998 was estimated to have a size of around 100 individuals and that today is almost reaching 200. Although the situation is still critical, these last events bring hope for the future of this population and the species.

Message sent to the MARMAM list by Pablo Fernandez de Larrinoa
Programa de conservación de la foca monje en Cabo Blanco
Fundación CBD-Habitat, Madrid, Spain

Photo by CBD-Habitat

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