Abstract: Identifying and effectively protecting the last remaining Mediterranean monk seal (Monachus monachus) populations and their habitats is a key priority for the survival of this critically endangered species. Following the opening of a restricted naval area at the Island of Gyaros in the central Aegean Sea, Greece, the authors initiated efforts to verify the existence and assess the status of the species in the area. Using established monk seal habitat suitability criteria and survey techniques, the authors aimed to identify suitable habitat and document possible pup production of the species in this new area. Eight coastal caves were located throughout the coastline of the island, three of which were considered suitable for resting and pupping, while the remaining five were considered suitable for only resting. Pup production was recorded during the 2004, 2005, and 2007 pupping seasons, and a minimum of ten, four, and seven pups were identified, respectively. In addition, mother-pup associations and interactions on three open beaches, a behavior that has not been observed in this species in the Mediterranean Sea recently, were recorded. This newly discovered colony, with relatively high natality compared to other breeding sites in the Mediterranean Sea and the rare use of open beaches, is of outstanding conservation value and is in urgent need of effective protection.
Key Words: conservation, distribution, behavior, endangered species, status, Cyclades Islands, Gyaros, Greece, Mediterranean monk seal, Monachus monachus
Document Type: Research article
Page Numbers: 355-361