The Mediterranean monk seal is the most endangered pinniped species in the world, with an estimated total population size of 350-450 animals, with 250-300 in the eastern Mediterranean within the largest subpopulation, of which about 150-200 are in Greece and about 100 in Turkey (Güçlüsoy 2004). Approximately 130 seals currently inhabit the Cabo Blanco area (Western Sahara-Mauritania); in the early 1990s this subpopulation was estimated at about 317 seals but a mass mortality event in 1996 reduced numbers to nearly a third (Forcada et al. 1999, Aguilar 1999). Approximately 20-23 inhabit the Desertas Island, Madeira (Pires and Neves 2001, UNEP/MAP 2005). The subpopulation at Cabo Blanco is the only large extant aggregation of the species and is unique in that it still preserves the structure of a colony (Aguilar 1999); the other subpopulations are composed of loose groups of extremely reduced size (usually less than 5 individuals). A recent review of monk seal occurrences reported from 1999-2005 suggests that at all other locations and countries about 14 additional seals can be accounted for (10 of the 14 in Algeria, plus an unspecified number of vagrants (UNEP/MAP, 2005)).
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