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Habitat use and preliminary demographic evaluation of the critically endangered Mediterranean monk seal (Monachus monachus) in the Cilician Basin (Eastern Mediterranean)

2004-04-01
Gücü, Ali Cemal
Gucu, G
Orek, H
Over the last few decades a dramatic decline in the number of Mediterranean monk seals (Monachus monachus) limited scientific studies on the biology.. behaviour, and ecology of the species. This lack of information impaired the effectiveness of conservation strategies. Thus, any further information gathered on the monk seal has utmost value in the work to halt and reverse the plight of the species. A hitherto unknown Cilician Basin colony of the Mediterranean monk seal has been investigated during a 6-year period between 1995 and 2001. Results of direct in-cave surveys and land based seal-watch observations enabled the evaluation of habitat use and preliminary demographic information. A total of 39 caves were discovered among which only three were used for breeding. Scarcity of the breeding caves emphasised the importance of breeding habitat in the survival of the colony. Common features of the breeding caves are found as an entrance with a protective barrier against strong waves; a chamber with a wide beach; and a well-sheltered shallow pool. Supplementary data obtained from infrared monitors installed in three actively used caves were used to assess the number of individuals. Throughout the study period, 25 individuals were identified and 11 newborn pups were found. Evaluation of the results Suggests the presence of sub-regions inhabited by an individually identified sub-group of monk seals. Recommendations for conservation guided by this information is a Marine Protected Area consisting of two zones; a restricted core zone prohibiting any human activity securing breeding habitat and a restricted fishery zone securing sustainability of the food source. (C) 2003 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.