Monk Seal sighting on Capraia Confirmed

A return due to the establishment of the protected marine area....

The President of the Tuscan Archipelago National Park, Giampiero Sammuri announced that «After the monk seal was sighted in Capraia about 2 years ago, they protected the cave where the monk seal reproduced in the last century. Monitoring actions for such rare and elusive species are one of the tasks of the parks, as is the eradication of alien species”.

Before 2020, from the 1970s to the 1980s onwards, there were no more sightings of monk seals in Capraia. The Ispra researchers Sabrina Agnesi’ recalled that «The monk seal had been considered disappeared in the Italian seas since the 1980s – But the reports of the last 20 years from citizens tell us that the presence of the monk seal is increasing again, especially in the areas where they were previously. Also in the Tuscan Archipelago, such as at Giglio and Capraia and off Pianosa.

In Capraia Ispra he spotted a specimen sleeping in the cave of the monk seal in June 2020. After sampling the faecal material, the park decided to monitor the cave with two video cameras (in infrared), one inside and one outside, connected in real time with Ispra and the Park».

The other Ispra researcher, Giulia Mo recalled that «In 2022, thanks to a funding from the Blue Foundation, monitoring was started with photo traps of the other suitable caves and/or frequented by monk seals in the past».

In the last few days the monk seal has returned to Capraia and slept for about ten hours in the cave, providing the opportunity to shoot exceptional images. The monk seal entered the cave at 21.30 and left at 6.30 in the morning.

The mayor of Capraia Marida Bessi said that «The return of the monk seal confirms the rightness of the choice made to protect the sea of Capraia and to enhance the natural capital of a wild island, with an economic and tourist impact. These marvelous images are useful for understanding that it is worth giving up entering a cave and respecting the constraints imposed”.

The images shot in Capraia are the longest film of a monk seal in the Italian Mediterranean since the last century. The Ispra researchers are trying to understand, through the analysis of the video, how old the specimen is, what is certain is that it is not an adult male or even a puppy. An adult monk seal is more than 2 meters long and weighs a few hundred kilograms.

It is important that the seal frequents a “historic” cave used in the past to reproduce in historical times and that it is important that the seal considers the Capraia cave a quiet area free from disturbances.

Agnesi and Mo say that “It cannot be excluded that there are other adult monk seals in the Tuscan Archipelago and that they may find partners among individuals who frequent Corsica and Sardinia or other areas of the Mediterranean. So it is no wonder that a pregnant adult female could give birth in the Tuscan Archipelago, or that the monk seal is exploring suitable caves. However, it cannot be excluded that such shy animals may give birth or even have already given birth in the Italian seas”.

Sammuri concluded: «We were hoping that the monk seal would return to the cave, seeing it was a unique emotion. The monk seal gives one more opportunity to a wonderful island, shots of a monk seal in a cave like this in Italy no one has them, only Capraia has it. It is the demonstration that well-managed tourism can coexist very well with the protection of the sea”.