Mediterranean Monk Seals in Mauritania

Mediterranean Monk Seals are critically endangered – I think the most endangered seal in the world – and down to perhaps only 500 adult animals. They are hard to see too. They are occasionally seen in Turkey and Greece, and – perhaps more often around the Desertas Islands in Madeira – but it seems that North Africa is a slightly better bet.

Dominique Brugiere took a look last year and found out some valuable information. This is from him.

During February 2013 I looked for Monk Seal in Western Sahara but didn’t see any. After asking to many people I got the place of a colony South of Dakhla. But it is a military zone and you need a permit from Rabat. Impossible. There is a Spanish scientist studying them, but she was not there either in February or December when I was there. So in December I decided to go to Cap Blanc in Mauritania. Cap Blanc is only 55km from the Western Sahara (Morocco). I travelled in Morocco with a hire car. But you can’t cross the border with a hire car. I used a shared taxi from Dakhla to Noadhibou, but you can do it from Guerguerat, the border. In Noadhibou I spent 2 days at Cap Blanc which was apparently the place where there used to be a small colony in the past. Right now, the main colony is 35km north, again in a military zone. The colony has now more than 200 seals.

From Noadhibou I used a taxi to reach Cap Blanc. Now there is only 1 regular male monk seal there. It is very easy to see. I was told that this seal was captured as a baby near the colony (so not far away) 19 years ago, bred for 2 years in a museum, then released at Cap Blanc 17 years ago. So not a completely wild one. Nevertheless it was great to see it fishing. I was also told that another male comes sometimes, and a female was seen 2 years ago on the beach next to Cap Blanc.

So there you go! I also heard that there is a colony in Algeria but couldn’t get much reliable info on this. Has anyone seen them there?



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