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Outrage Over Harpooning of Protected Monk Seal off Greek Island

July 28, 2021

Greek officials and animal lovers are angry over the harpooning death of an orphaned Monk Seal known as Kostis, who had become a kind of celebrity on the island of Alonnisos, where he lived in the waters and posed for photos.

He was rescued by fishermen in 2018 and was found shot dead with a harpoon from close range, indicating a deliberate act, leading conservationists and others to demand to find who did it, but no leads have been reported.

Panagiotis Dendrinos, President of MOm, the Hellenic Society for the Study and Protection of the Monk Seal, a non-profit group that works to protect the endangered species, told Reuters that, “The Coast Guard alerted us and we immediately went there, and unfortunately confirmed that the animal was dead.”

He said the seal’s body had been pierced by a long harpoon of more than a meter (39.36 inches) which appeared to have been fired downwards, possibly from on board a boat and he said it appeared very unlikely to have been an accident.

“Everything points to this being done on purpose. The way the animal was hit, the weapon used,” he said.

“It is a terrible and sad event, it has greatly saddened and enraged us, and not only us, but also the majority of residents and visitors of Alonnisos island, who knew Kostis, this seal that hung around the port,” he told the news agency.

Alonissos, in the northern Sporades chain, has one of the last remaining colonies of Monk Seals in the Mediterranean and people there had grown fond of Kostis who was found as a baby after a storm washed him away from the island of Folengandros.

He was aided by locals as well as those at MOm’s rescue center on Alonnisos and sent back into the wild at the age of 3-4 months, becoming a much-loved mascot for the island, the report added.

“We hope that the culprit is found, because this is a criminal act, it is not only an immoral act, it is also illegal,” Dendrinos also said.

Monk seals, once found across the Mediterranean, are considered among the world’s most threatened species and only a few hundred are thought to remain in the Aegean or off the Atlantic coast of Mauritania in northwestern Africa.

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