Monk seals - Greece - 2018March 1 2018
The Mediterranean monk seal is on the “endangered species” section of the IUCN’s red list since 1986. Its population is down to only a few hundred individuals, mainly concentrated in Greece and Turkey.
This marine mammal has occupied Mare Nostrum since the Antiquity. Yet, it’s still one of the least known and studied seals in the world. The Octopus Foundation joins a program aimed at better understanding this key species.
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Two weeks before our 2018 expedition to Greece.
We currently are in the final preparation stage, where the equipment is dispatched between the team members. We have A LOT of stuff, and some of it is fragile and needs proper protection from plane voyage.
With the help of the Hackuarium in Renens (Switzerland) and Octanis in Lausanne (Switzerland), we are currently working hard to develop and test a fully autonomous camera.
Not only will the camera take pictures (in and out of a cave visited by monk seals), it will also send the images to a server via 3G/4G network. Everything needs to be solar powered, and weather resistant. It's not easy, but luckily we have great support !
We know there still are a few specimens of monk seal in the Mediterranean. But what is the exact state of the species as a whole ?
Although numerous studies have been conducted these past 20 years, nobody is able to answer this question today.
In some specific places in Greece, these solitary animals are regularly seen patrolling the waters. Sightings have also been reported in Italy, Croatia, Slovenia and Turkey. It's not unlikely that the populations of Mediterranean monk seal have actually spread further than previously thought. In order to validate this theory, the crew of the Octopus Foundation will use the Ionian Islands to deploy various tools and methods aimed at gathering data. Custom-made autonomous cameras have been purchased and developed by the technical team. They will be installed in different caves that are regularly visited by monk seals, as confirmed by Greek biologists on location.
Once validated, these tools will be replicated under the supervision of the IUCN, to be deployed in all of the Mediterranean basin.
In addition to the financial and logistical support, the Octopus Foundation will develop mainstream media to raise awareness on this emblematic and threatened animal. These media will also help to understand the seal’s behaviour, biology, the threats it is facing and what solutions can be developed to help its species thrive.