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Mediterranean Monk Seal
Mediterranean Monk Seal

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Mediterranean Monk Seal

Scientific Name:
Monachus monachus

Group: Mammals

Status/Date Listed as Endangered:
EN-US FWS: June 2, 1970

CR-IUCN: 2008

Area(s) Where Listed As Endangered:
Mediterranean Sea, Northwest African Coast and Black Sea

The Mediterranean monk seal is a close relative of the Caribbean monk seal and is one of the rarest animals in the world. Adult seals measure about 7.8 feet in length on average and can weigh up to 690 lb. Males are slightly larger than females. Their smooth coats are generally brown or gray on the back and lighter on the belly and they resemble robes of Franciscan friars, giving them the name, “monk seals.” There is also a white patch that appears on their bellies, and other irregular light patches are not uncommon.

Mediterranean monk seals prefer to live on coastal areas in groups or “colonies.” They appear to be social and have been seen in groups from 20 to 300 seals. The seals have also been found in caves resting or mating. The cave usage seems to be in response to human disturbance. They prefer to be active and feed during the day, feeding on a variety of marine organisms, including eels, tuna, sardines, and also octopuses. Mating occurs from September to November and the seals prefer to mate in the water. Females give birth to only one pup and may not give birth to another for two more years. The bond between the mother and pup is said to be strong and they remain together for up to three years.

The Mediterranean monk seal species was nearly wiped out due to hunting for its skin in the 1800s. Today, the main threats are killing by fishermen who consider the seals competitors for fish, accidental entanglement in fishing gear, human disturbance, and habitat loss. This species is now protected by law by many countries.

Mediterranean Monk Seal Facts Last Updated: March 15, 2008

To Cite This Page:
Glenn, C. R. 2006. "Earth's Endangered Creatures - Mediterranean Monk Seal Facts" (Online).
Accessed 3/27/2017 at


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