Funding for ‘The Last Monks of The Mediterranean – a documentary about an endangered Mediterranean monk seal (Monachus monachus)
Mediterranean monk seal? Never heard of it!
The Mediterranean monk seal is one of the most endangered mammals in the world. The description of this species by Aristotle was the first known written description of a pinniped (a group that includes seals, sea lions and walrus) , and the head of a monk seal appeared on one of the first ever coins, around 500 BC . Adults have a brown or grey coat, which becomes paler on the undersurface and males often feature a white patch on the belly. Old males are darker in colour and often become black, but retain the ventral white patch. Newborn infants are black and woolly with a white or yellow patch on the belly, the shape of which can sometimes be used to determine the sex of an individual.
Once widespread throughout the Mediterranean, the Black Sea and the northwestern coast of Africa, this monk seal has suffered a devastating decline. It is now restricted to a handful of small and scattered colonies in the Ionian and Aegean Seas and the southern coast of Turkey in the Mediterranean, as well as scattered populations on the coasts of the western Sahara and Mauritania, and the Desertas Islands, Madeira. It is thought that just two of these populations are viable, in Greece and northwest Africa. The species has not been seen in the Black Sea for over five years. Although no reliable estimates of total population size exist, it is thought to number between just 400 to 500 individuals, and is declining.
Why a documentary?
This could be our last chance to save this magnificent creature! And it could also be the last chance for the Mediterranean monk seal to tell its story. How it lives, how it loves and, sadly, how and why it is slowly disappearing.
Five years ago in May 2013 a monk seal was seen on the southernmost point of Istrian peninsula near the town of Pula. In September 2013, in Pula a male specimen swam to a busy beach and entertained numerous tourists for five minutes before swimming back to the open sea. In summer 2014 sightings in Pula have occurred almost daily and monk seal stayed multiple times on crowded city beaches, sleeping calm for hours just few meters away from humans. Less than a month later this female monk seal was found dead in the Mrtvi Puć bay near Šišan, Croatia. Experts said it was natural death caused by her old age.
In this documentary we would like to shed some light on the life of the Mediterranean monk seal.
- We will talk to fishermen who used to consider it a pest due to the damage the seal causes to fishing nets when it preys on fish caught in them.
- We will talk to historians, experts for the Roman Empire and Middle Ages when the mon seal was hunted for commercial purposes
- We will discuss with scientists and conservationists to find out why this specie is important for Mediterranean ecosystem.
What exactly do we need funds for?
As you could guess, filming interesting images of monk seals is tricky. It requires a lot of underwater filming, on hard approachable coasts and in coastal caves. We would really like to follow the animals for longer period of time, to study them thoroughly and to capture the best possible images. And so we need top quality equipment to capture images of a subject far away from the camera, and even better equipment when you have little to no light underwater.
We will need to hire cameras and lenses. We also want to get drone images of the monk seal.
For this project we will need to travel all around the Mediterranean Sea, from Croatia to Greece, from Cyprus to Gibraltar to film the diverse wildlife and interview different people. For filming on the coast of the Adriatic Sea we will use our sailboat, however we will need to rent a different boat for more distant shores.
Music and sound, animations, grading, editing … All the work that needs to be done after the filming stops and post-production begins.
Now you know what the funds are needed for, if you want to see this documentary come true then share and make a donation!