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article imageMan punches rare monk seal, gets expelled from Croatia

By Megan Hamilton     Jul 31, 2014 in Odd News
Pula - Tourists and locals lounging at a popular beach on Gortan Bay in Croatia's Istria Peninsula got a bizarre shock when a man started punching a rare Mediterranean monk seal, one of the world's most endangered mammals.
The man, 56, from Macedonia, received a 210-euro ($280) fine and was expelled from the country for five years for breaching the Law on Nature Protection, according to
Fortunately, the seal was not injured and made its way back to the sea, reports.
It had long been believed that the seal was extinct in the Adriatic, however, in 2005, several of the seals have appeared in the waters surrounding the northern Croatian port Pula, reports.
Formerly widespread throughout the Mediterranean, the Black Sea, and along the northwestern coast of Africa, the Mediterranean monk seal (Monachus monachus), has declined drastically and is now restricted to a small number of scattered colonies in the Ionian and Aegean Seas and the southern coast of Turkey, as well as scattered populations along the coasts of the western Sahara and Mauritania, as well as the Desertas Islands of Madeira. There are no reliable estimates regarding the total population, Arkive reports, but it's thought that only 400-500 individuals remain and the population is declining.
These seals are extremely sensitive to habitat disturbance and humans have quite extensively used both the sea and beaches of their habitat for centuries, and the population has declined steeply as a result.
Mediterranean monk seals are often deliberately killed by fishermen who see the seals as competition for fish. Entanglement in fishing gear, disturbance and habitat destruction for tourism, disease, and the effects of toxic algal blooms have taken a huge toll. In 1997, a toxic algal bloom that accumulated in fish wiped out two-thirds of the seals in the largest population, which is located at Cap Blanc, Mauritania, per Arkive. These seals are so shy that they have taken to hauling out in caves to give birth, as opposed to developed beaches, and the collapse of such caves further threatens the survival of these enigmatic creatures.
The IUCN Red List reports that two protected areas have been set up specifically for monk seals in the Desertas Islands in the Madeira Archipelago and the Northern Sporades Islands National Marine Park in Greece. Plans are also in the works to set up additional nature reserves to protect more of the seal's habitat in the region. Where hopefully, no strange people will punch them.
While there have been actions to curb the human activities that impact the seals, such as restricting fishing gear and relocating the fishing practices that adversely affect them, the IUCN reports that unless urgent action is taken, the risk of the Mediterranean monk seals becoming extinct is very high.
It is truly tragic that the activities of one creature — humans—have taken such a heavy toll on so many of the other remarkable creatures on this planet. Can the Mediterranean monk seal be saved?
Only time will tell.
More about monk seal, Croatia, physorg, rtecom, arkive
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