Three new births of the Mediterranean monk seal species (Monachus monachus), one of the most endangered mammals in the world and the only seal species in the Mediterranean, were recorded last year, the Agricultural Ministry announced on Friday.
In a development that has not been seen for several decades, the birth of the three precious seals, named Iris, Nafsika, and Triton, have raised the island’s population of Mediterranean monk seals to 19.
“This is an incredibly important development for the preservation of the Mediterranean seal in Cyprus,” the Agricultural Ministry said.
The three seals were born in the Limassol and Paphos districts, between September and December, and are under the round-the-clock watch of the local Mediterranean Seal Observation Team.
“The three new births of an endangered species which numbers just 600 members globally, is a promising and exciting event for Cyprus,” Agricultural Minister Costas Kadis said.
Traversing their first months, the newborn seals spend most of their time in their cave, and will soon begin getting to know the outside world as they their mother in her search for food. Following a lactation period which usually lasts three to four months, the young seals will then begin to grow independent from their mother, without necessarily abandoning their cave of birth.
The Mediterranean monk seal has been protected in Cyprus since 1971 under the Fisheries Law.
Cyprus has in recent years shown a devastating track record of choosing real estate developments over the protection of nature
Though the local population of the endangered seal species has been making a slow recovery since 2011, as figures collected by the Ministry show, Cyprus has in recent years shown a devastating track record of choosing real estate developments over the protection of nature, threatening valuable local biodiversity, and contributing to the loss and degradation of monk seal habitats.
Cyprus even received a warning from the EU for its persistent failure to properly assess the implications of developments on protected Natura 2000 sites.
The most striking example in relation to the monk seal is the approval and construction of a hotel and villa residences in the Peyia sea caves area, skirting the boundaries of the Akamas national park, as well as other Natura sites, a main birthing habitat for the Mediterranean seal.
Real estate developments are a serious threat to the monk seal, which have a special preference for isolated and quiet coasts.
The Ministry has called on the public to report any sightings of monk seals by calling 22807841 or 22805532.