Monachus monachus (Hermann 1779) Mediterranean Monk Seal
Hebrew name: כלב-ים ים תיכוני, kelev-yam yam tikhoni
Global Threat: CR (C2a) – Critically Endangered
Regional Threat: RE – Regionally Extinct
Historic distribution: In the 16th century traveler and naturalist Pierre Belon reported many monk seals on the sandy beaches between Cairo and Palestine (Paz 1996). An Arab fisherman reported a pair of Mediterranean monk seals in Tantura (now Dor) in the 1920s (Ben-Tuvia 1986). During that same decade a female was caught in El-Arish and died on the way to the Cairo zoo (Ben-Tuvia 1986). In 1934 a female monk seal and her cub were hunted in Tantura (Dor 1987). In 1940 the Chief Fisheries Officer in the British Mandatory Government claimed there were still monk seals on the El-Arish coast (Paz 1996). Yig’al Sela reported sighting a seal in 1953 in an undersea cave in Lebanese territory, a bit north of Rosh HaNiqra (Ben-Tuvia 1986). About 60 seals inhabited the Lebanese coast in 1952 (Paz 1996). In 1958 a fisherman from Nahsholim reported seeing a Mediterranean monk seal near a fishing boat off the Dor coast (Paz 1996). By 1972 only 20 animals were left on the Lebanese coast (Paz 1996). In 1976, 6-7 seals were seen regularly in the vicinity of the Beirut harbor (Mendelssohn & Yom-Tov 1988).
Typical Habitat: Subtropical sandy or rocky coves; pupping occurs in caves in cliffs on the edge of the sea, whose entrance is sometimes underwater (Macdonald & Barret 1993).
Major Extinction Factors:
1. Disturbances to pupping and lactation in coastal caves.
2. Strangulation from entanglement in fishnets.
3. Deliberate killing by fishermen, who fear competition for fish and damage to fishnets.
4. Hunting for exploiting oil, meat and skin.
Period during which Species Became Extinct: Apparently became extinct from Israel’s beaches during the second half of the 20th century.
Species Rehabilitation Possibility: There is no suitable site. The entire Mediterranean population is on the verge of extinction.