Some 19 Mediterranean monk seals have been spotted off Cyprus, with five seen swimming near the now-empty resort of Ayia Napa during the breeding season.
But Fisheries Department official Melina Marcou urged the curious public not to bother the seals during this crucial reproduction period.
She told CNA: “This specific period is very important for the monacus monachus seal since it is the period of its reproduction and it needs quiet.”
“It is important for people not to go to the area where the seals are and not bother them.
“Recently, quite a few people have been observed going to the rocks or diving in the sea to photograph them and take videos.”
The seal needs isolation to give birth, and if they are bothered daily and don’t feel comfortable, they will leave the area.
“Another possibility is the seal will give birth in an unsuitable cave where because baby seals cannot swim, they may drown, or the seal may abandon the baby, which will then likely die.
“People need to protect the monachus monachus seal at this crucial period, leaving it in peace to give birth and help its babies grow.”
Marcou also said that fishermen’s contribution is very important for protecting species.
Around 19 Mediterranean monk seals have been located in Cyprus; they use caves in protected areas.
In Ayia Napa, 4 to 5 seals have been observed entering and leaving the caves in recent days, adding that it is believed the only reason they have not used these caves in the past is human presence.
In particular, two large females, one male and two younger seals, were observed using the caves from cameras set up by the Fisheries Department.
Monk seal mating behaviour is rarely observed; however, it is known that they mate at sea.
After mating, pregnant females haul out onshore to give birth, generally to a single pup. Birthing takes place at various times, peaking in March and April. Pups are nursed for five to six weeks.