Written by and Photos Courtesy of Dan Ward
She is a Mediterranean Monk Seal (Monachus monachus) pup, less than 2 years old, who shows quite strange behaviour! Normally these marine mammals prefer inaccessible coast lines and caves as resting areas. Argiro, affectionately named by the local fisherman, can regularly be found making her way into people’s back gardens and her favourite place to chill is on the sun loungers of the most crowded beaches on Samos.
As one of only 450 remaining individuals of this Critically Endangered species, Archipelagos Institute of Marine Conservation (our partner organisation in Greece) have a dedicated team to protect her, making sure no harm comes her way. Through collaboration with the local community of fisherman, farmers, teachers and students, alongside the team of international volunteers working for Archipelagos, Argiro has been kept safe and countless hours of behavioural data has been logged.
Originally the monk seal team attempted to quash all media related attention that Argiro received in order to minimise human disturbance. Argiro had other ideas! She can regularly be found on the busiest, most touristic beaches around Samos. With her unique personality and popularity, she quickly became a powerful ambassador for her species and her image is now used in numerous community-engagement programmes to educate locals and tourists on these fantastic animals.
Naturally a monk seal as large (and smelly!) as she has caused a few issues with local business owners and tourists alike during the peak seasons. There has been a balancing act between making peace with local business owners and ensuring the seal is not placed in danger.
Reaching maturity around 4 years of age, the hope is that Argiro will eventually move on to a new, more remote location as she ages fully into an adult. Failing this, she will be moved to a protected area such as the planned Lipsi Bay open sea aquarium.