Abstract: Activity patterns of the critically endangered Mediterranean monk seal (Monachus monachus) were examined in the Desertas Islands Nature Reserve in the archipelago of Madeira. Activity of seals at sea was recorded from 25 lookout sites positioned along the reserve's coastline and correlated to site location, season, time of day, and state of tide. From 1994 to 2005, monk seal activity, related mainly to the reproductive behaviour of the species, was recorded primarily at the three pupping sites within the reserve. Activity was influenced by site location, season, and state of tide but not by the time of day. Activity was highest during the autumn and winter months and was related to the pupping and post-parturition necessities of the species, and during high tide, when the incoming action of the sea led monk seals to move out of coastal caves, which are used for resting and breeding. Differences in activity among the three sites monitored were attributed to the level of protection offered by these locations against wind and wave action. The findings of this study, the most extensive study of its kind, have enabled the identification of priority research, and conservation actions for the species in the area.
Key Words: MEDITERRANEAN MONK SEAL; MONACHUS MONACHUS; POPULATION ESTIMATES; PUPPING SITES; SEASONAL ACTIVITY; SPECIES CONSERVATION; TIDAL INFLUENCE; DESERTAS ISLANDS NATURE RESERVE
Document Type: Research article
Page Numbers: 327 - 336