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Monk Seal Died of Natural Causes

The autopsy of Maminhas, the female Monk Seal who was found dead on the Desertas Islands has revealed that she probably died of natural causes.

Madeira is home to a small but vital colony of Mediterranean Monk Seals, one of the rarest in the world, and over the last thirty years the population has grown from six to thirty, with the death of this female representing a great loss to the breeding potential of the rest of the colony.  The species was declared at risk of extinction in 1988, and the discovery of a small group of Monk seals living around the Desertas Island prompted the Regional Government to decree that the islands became a protected area in 1990; five years later it became a nature reserve.

The autopsy was carried out at the Museu da Baleia, Caniçal, by a multidisciplinary team composed of officials from the Regional Directorate for Agriculture and Rural Development, the Regional Directorate for Fisheries and the Institute of Forests and Conservation of Nature (IFCN). Further tests are to be carried out in terms of histopathology (the study of changes in body tissues caused by disease) and toxicology; and as this is an specific area of veterinary medicine, Spanish experts have been called in to assist and advise.

Adult Monk seals can grow up to 3 metres in length and weigh 350 kg.

Samantha Gannon

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