Monk Seal or Sea-Wolf

  • Monk Seal / Sea-Wolf 


Scientific name
Monachus monachus (Hermann, 1779)

Red Data Book Status
Critical Endangered



    • Available tours to watch this specie

Desertas Island Expedition

  • Identification

Monk Seal can reach up to 3 metres in length and 300 kg in weight being one of the largest seals in the world. The colour of the body is dark (can go from greyish brown to black) and on the ventral surface have a whitish spot. The pups of this seal have a dark woolly hair (2,5cm) and the adults have a short coarse hair (0,5 cm).

  • Ecology

The Monk Seal is mainly a solitary marine mammal which needs to come on to land to rest and to reproduce. For this activity manly use beaches inside of caves, but also can be seen in open beaches.
They feed on cephalopods, crustaceans and fish mainly near the coast line, where can dive until depths of 120 meters doing apnoea until 15 min.
Once the female reach the sexual maturity at 4 years of age, she can be fertilized in the sea by the male who chose her. The period of gestation is about 9 months and only birth one pup, which maintain the lactation period until 4 months becoming independent. This specie can live up to 35 years of age.

  • Distribution

In the past they were distributed throughout the Mediterranean basin, Black Sea, Northwest Atlantic African, and Azores, Madeira and Canaries. Nowadays, considered the rarest seal in the world, just 500 individuals breeds in some countries of Mediterranean, Cape Blanco in Africa and archipelago of Madeira.

  • In Madeira

When the Madeira Island was discover the Monk seal or Sea-wolf were numerous. Since that time, about 500 years ago, the population declined near to extinction because of the hunting by man and fishing techniques. In the eighties only could be possible count 8 individuals restrict to Desertas island. Nowadays, because the conservation project managed by Madeira Natural Park, knowledge and awareness of the people, the monk seal has been more familiar. In the archipelago there is a safe and stable population of about 40 animals, which have their principal habitat in Desertas island but also are distributed in Madeira island.


In Madeira this seal is known by Sea-wolf because when the island was discovered in 1419 they found a small bay, today named Wolves Chamber (Câmara de Lobos), where there were numerous seals howling like wolfs.


  • Monk Seal Sightings


July 2013, Desertas Islands © AIFagundes


 July 2013, Desertas Islands © AIFagundes

Sightings Reports

Quick Contact
Please let us know your name. Email
Please let us know your email address. Subject
Please write a subject for your message. Message
Please let us know your message. Type code in image
Type code in image
Invalid Input
* All fields are mandatory


Tours and Walks

visaamerican expressmastercarddiscoverpaypal