There are 3 species of the earless Monk Seal (Monachus monachus
). The Caribbean species (Monachus tropicalis
) is now extinct, the Hawaiian species (Monachus schauinslandi
) is endangered and the Mediterranean monk seal is the most endangered pinniped
(fin foot) species.
The coloration of the upper side of the body is uniform brown and the lower underside is a spotted yellowish-white. The name is derived from the fact that the total body coloration looks like a monk's habit. It weighs up to 400 kg (880 lb), measures about 2.4 m in length and can live up to 20-30 years.
It feeds on fish, molluscs and octopus. Once common along the Mediterranean and Black Sea coasts and on the Atlantic shores of northwest Africa
, the Canary Islands, and Madeira, this animal now probably numbers fewer than 400 and the population continues to decline.
The Mediterranean Monk Seal is one of the rarest mammals in the world. Catching sight of this mammal is considered an omen of good fortune. One of the first coins, minted around 500 BC, depicted the head of a monk seal, and the creatures were immortalized in the writings of Homer, Plutarch and Aristotle.
Your Chances of seeing one in the wild
Researchers estimate that the population has fallen 60% since the late 1950s. The causes for its endangerment are hunting, deliberate killing by fishers who consider them competitors for scarce resources, pollution and human disturbance. Today the largest population of Mediterranean Monk Seals is found near Greece
. It is listed as 'critically endangered' in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species