A novel approach to seal conservation
The creation of an artificial ledge for seals to use within caves has not been tried in the Mediterranean before and it is hoped that it can be replicated in other areas along the coastline. The conservationists have identified other caves that are suitable for the installation of an artificial ledge.
“We were incredibly excited when we found a seal using our artificial ledge for the first time,” says Zafer Kizilkaya, AKD President. “As an endangered species, Mediterranean monk seals need all the help they can get from conservationists, and the lack of breeding sites challenged us to think creatively about how to solve this problem. The installation of an artificial ledge for a monk seal is a first in the Mediterranean but we hope it will not be the last – we have identified other caves and will be looking to install further ledges. We hope Gökova Bay will be home to many more seal pups in the years to come.”
The female has made the cave her home and the hope is she will use it to give birth in – this season or in future breeding seasons – and use it to raise her pups. Unlike other seal species that have weaning periods of mere days, the weaning period for a Mediterranean monk seal is around four months.
It is thought that there are as few as 400 adult Mediterranean monk seals remaining globally, mainly in a small fragment of their original range between Türkiye and Greece. The primary threats to these seals are habitat loss and deliberate killings by fishers who resent the damage they can cause to fishing nets. Conservationists have worked hard with the fisher community over many years, raising awareness and driving educational efforts, and as a result, this threat has been significantly reduced.
The Gökova Bay project is supported by the Prince Bernhard Nature Fund and by the Endangered Landscapes Programme, managed by the Cambridge Conservation Initiative and funded by Arcadia – a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin.