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Saturday 01 March 2008 West Indian monk seal

West Indian Monk SealIt is sad that the West Indian Monk Seal (Monachus tropicalis) is extinct. The last official sighting was in 1952 on the Serranilla Bank in the Carribean. They lived in the waters of Bahamas, Florida keys, Greater and Lesser Antillies, and at the Yucatan peninsula.

They stayed most of their time in water, as expected, and many sightings happen under the surface. This led to the strong hypothesis that they very rarely go to the surface, or if they were, they were recognized for something else.

The West Indian Monk Seal was known to be a beautiful being, it had a brown covering, lightly frosted, and it had rolls of fat embracing the neck. Its hair was stiff and short, palms/soles were bare. Male West Indian Monk Seals reached up to two hundred kilograms in certain cases, while the females were less big, ranging from seventy to one hundred forty kilograms.

The mating particularities of the West Indian Monk Seal are not known. It is known however, that in average, a mother would produce just one newborn. Their longevity in the wild was two decades.

These seals were active during dusk and dawn hours. Their primary diet mainly consisted of lobsters, eels, octopus, and other reef fish. They had few predators, actually, if the experts are to be believed, there are just two. Humans and sharks, but that's based on very few in-depth studies on these seals. Their lack of fear for humans and the fact that the West Indian monk seal is sluggish on land, contributed to their demise.

From the Monachus Guardian website

Observing Caribbean 'sea wolves' on the coast of Santo Domingo in 1494, Columbus promptly ordered his crew to kill eight of the animals for food, paving the way for exploitation of the species by the European immigrants who came in his wake. The slaughter continued up until the 20th century, with hunters sometimes killing as many as a hundred seals in a night. Caribbean monk seals were also killed by scientists for museum collections, and the last confirmed sighting occurred off Seranilla Bank in 1952.

Interesting fact: The West Indian Monk Seal is the only seal ever known to be native to the Caribbean sea and the Gulf of Mexico

Description of the picture: Captive Caribbean monk seal, Monachus tropicalis, of unknown sex at the New York Aquarium in ca. 1910. Specimen originally captured from either Arrecife´s Tria´ngulos (Campeche) or Arrecife Alacra´n (Yucatan) in Mexico (Townsend 1909). You can help spreading the word about this animal by liking it on facebook

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