Not all beach babes in Mykonos wear bikinis. That’s right! Mykonos is actually home to beautiful seals sunbathing and swimming along it’s shores. Mediterranean Monk seals to be exact.
In ancient Greek folklore, monk seals were placed under the protection of Poseidon and Apollo because they showed a great love for sea and sun. One of the first coins, minted around 500 BC, depicted the head of a monk seal, and the creatures were immortalized in the writings of Homer, Plutarch and Aristotle. To fishermen and seafarers, catching sight of the animals frolicking in the waves or loafing on the beaches was considered to be an omen of good fortune.
The Mediterranean Monk Seal exists in 12 isolated cave areas away from populated tourist beaches. There is also one small island by the Mykonos shore that has become a safe breeding ground. Since they are an endangered species on the brink of extinction, (reportedly only 600 remaining Mediterranean Monk Seals exist), I will not name the island to keep it private. Formerly they were found all over the Mediterranean Sea, Black Sea and northwest African coast. It is important to do all we can to preserve their environment and hopefully see their numbers increase.
The remote caves give the pups a safe place to be born and nurtured. Mediterranean monk seal pups are generally born in September and October. Pups are nursed by mom for a period of about four months. The pups moults from about 8 weeks of age losing its black coat replaced by a silvery dark-grey coat.
The mortality of monk seals by entanglement in fishing gear is still a problem, while over-fishing has also resulted in a general lack of food resources. The continually increasing use of motor vessels, expansion of fishing, coastal construction and increased tourism have all contributed to difficulty in protecting monk seal habitat and preventing recovery of monk seal colonies.
Let’s hope that the rich marine life surrounding Mykonos and other Cyclades islands continues to include the precious Mediterranean Monk Seal in it’s future.