“Athena” is the name of the violent storm that is currently pounding the Greek Ionian Islands. Southern winds reaching force Beaufort 10 are forecasted for today October 7th, 2021.
The inhabitants have all found shelter in their homes and the boats are secured in the different ports and anchorages of the area for the next 24 hours, at least.
Wildlife also manages to survive in the face of the most extreme weather events. Last night was no exception.
The Octopus Foundation and its partners have the immense privilege of announcing the birth of a baby Mediterranean monk seal (Monachus monachus) last night at 9:30 pm. The incredible event took place in the Ionian Islands, in one of the five sites that we have been remotely monitoring since 2018 thanks to our Open Source system. The goal is to study the behavior of the monk seals in their natural environment without disturbing them, in order to design the best conservation strategies.
We realised with great pride that the mother was one of the previously 10 identified monk seals from 2019: “BIG STARS” was photographed in 2019 and 2020 in a different marine cave of the area. As you can see in these images, seals have distinctive marks (i.e., scars) in their fur that allow, like fingerprints, to identify them and follow their stories… This is the case of BIG STARS.
When looking at the size of her belly, in the images of BIG STARS obtained back in 2019, it seemed possible that she was pregnant. Female monk seals give birth only once a year to a single pup, and it doesn’t necessarily happen every year.
As we are writing these words, both mum and baby Mediterranean monk seal seem to be safe and healthy. We cross our fingers that they will get through this storm safely, and that they will not be disturbed by any humans in the next two weeks. It has already been documented that when the new mother feels threatened, she may abandon her pup, with fatal consequences for the little one.
Given the critical situation of the species in the Mediterranean, every birth is great news that we are delighted to share with you today!