12 October 2004
Orphaned monk seal pup found on Kos, the island of “Hippocrates”
At 19:00 hrs on Thursday 7 October, a Mediterranean monk seal pup was found stranded on Kefalos beach on the eastern Aegean island of Kos, a popular holiday destination. The discovery was made by local inhabitant Yannis Bezas, who immediately alerted the port police authorities. They, in turn, raised the alarm at MOm’s headquarters in Athens, whose specialists passed on care and surveillance instructions by phone throughout the night.
With fewer that 500 individuals remaining in the wild, the Mediterranean monk seal is Europe’s most endangered marine mammal.
According to descriptions provided by the port police, the beached orphan appeared anxious, and was unwilling to return to the sea. Despite following standard watch-and-wait instructions, the pup’s mother did not return, making rescue essential.
During the night, local fisherman Sotiris Christodoulou sheltered the orphan at his home, delivering it safely into the hands of MOm’s rescue team inbound on a flight from Athens early the following morning.
The assistance provided by the fisherman once again illustrated how human attitudes towards the species long regarded as a fish-stealing, net-damaging pest are changing for the better.
The pup is a 2 week old male, weighing 20 kilos.
Upon examination, the foundling was discovered to be dehydrated, with high temperature and irritated mucosa of the mouth and eyes, leading MOm experts to believe that lactation had been interrupted for more than 24 hours. Superficial wounds were also found on the head and flippers, most likely a result of the stormy weather last week that may have separated the animal from its mother.
First aid and oral rehydration therapy were administered immediately.
With his condition judged as critical, he was then quickly transferred by plane to Athens and then on to MOm’s Rescue and Rehabilitation Unit in the National Marine Park of Alonissos-Northern Sporades.
In honour of Kos’ most famous figure from history, and in recognition of the island’s swift action to save its life, the pup was named “Hippocrates”.
Already more vigorous after his tiring journey, Hippocrates is now being fed on fish porridge, and nursed back to health by experienced staff and veterinarians.
In the complex rehabilitation procedure that may last up to 6 months, MOm is collaborating with the Veterinary School of Thessaloniki and the Virology Department of Erasmus University, Rotterdam.
With so few monk seals left in the wild, even one orphaned individual can make a world of difference. Satellite tracking of another orphan, Dimitris, released in May this year, indicates that the animal is alive and well and crisscrossing the Marine Park. Well-wishers from Greece and abroad will be hoping that young Hippocrates will be joining him in a few months’ time.
Flery Fotiadou, Public Awareness Activities Coordinator
Hellenic Society for the Study & Protection of the Monk Seal (MOm)
Tel: +30 21 5222888