Grotta del Fico: the last shelter for Mediterranean Monk Seals (Monachus Monachus)!
One of the most sought-after animals of the world: funny snout, buffi movimenti e super shy!
A few speleological groups studied this lovely piniped in Sardinia: like speleologists the seals used to spend their time inside caves, beyond secret sumps and submerged chambers, to find shelter from sun rays and human passage. For this reason, since the very beginning, they preferred small islands, secluded coves and inlets protectedd by high cliffs.
In the summer of 1970, the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare from London decided to do some research, sending to Sardinia its scientific director Walter Scott, a real expert of seals and endangered animals.
It was Padre Antonio Furreddu, founder of Gruppo Speleologico Pio XI and aknowledged expert, who guided Walter Scott all along the beautiful Sardinian coastline. During the Fifties, Furreddu started a long research on local populations of Mediterranean Monk Seals in Sardinia, documenting their presence in modern times, monitorning survived specimen, exploring coastal caves in which the last seals still found shelter.
Here are some pictures collected at that time, property of Gruppo Speleologico Pio XI:
It became clear, thanks to these studies how, during the 20th Century, the number of specimens rapidly fell: if at the beginning of the Century, 25 spots along the coast still hosted seal permanently, in the Sixties and Seventies there were only a few specimens left in the Gulf of Orosei, specifically the seven seals that lived inside the Grotta del Fico.
Since the Eighties, “last sightings” along the coast of Baunei and in Sardinia in general, follow one another, so many that somebody bets monk seals still live in the Island, they are probably just smarter than before to hide from our eyes.
Today inside the Grotta del Fico it’s possible to admire and photograph two amazing reproductions of the Mediterranean Monk Seal, made by Massimo Canargiu, a local naturalist and taxidermist.