Caribbean monk seal is now officially extinct

June 10th, 2008 - 6:46 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, June 10 (ANI): Lack of evidence has led researchers to confirm that the Caribbean monk seal is now officially extinct.

According to a report in Discovery News, the Caribbean monk seal was last seen in 1952 on a small group of reef islands between Jamaica and Mexicos Yucatan Peninsula.

Covered in brown fur tinged with gray, and with a yellow belly, the animal was easy prey for European settlers in the 1600s and 1700s, who killed it for meat, oil, and to seal the bottoms of boats.

Several seal sightings were reported in the Caribbean between 1952 and the present, but until the 80s and 90s - when people began carrying cameras and cell phones - it was difficult to verify whether those sightings really were Caribbean monk seals.

According to Kyle Baker of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Associations Fisheries Service in Saint Petersburg, Florida, US, Reviewing the data, weve identified most of these as hooded seals, which are Arctic species coming down from the northeast.

With better information, we decided it was time to do the status review (under the Endangered Species Act) and to come to the conclusion, unfortunately, that the species is now gone, he said.

Two other species of monk seal remain: the Hawaiian monk seal and the Mediterranean monk seal, both also endangered with only 1,200 and 500 seals remaining, respectively.

The Hawaiian monk seal suffers from different threats than hunting by humans, according to Bud Antonelis, who heads the Protected Species Division at NOAA Fisheries Service in Honolulu, Hawaii.

The Hawaiian seals face threats from habitat loss, food limitation, marine debris and shark predation.

While the loss of the Caribbean monk seal is extremely disappointing, it serves as a lesson for us to pay attention to the resources that are still here and to do everything we can so that the same problem doesnt happen to them, said Antonelis. (ANI)

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