2 August 2008
Badem in ‘protective custody’
In early July, rehabilitated Mediterranean monk seal ‘Badem’ was brought into temporary captivity, both for her own safety and that of swimmers and holidaymakers, with whom she was increasingly interacting [see Badem under armed guard, Latest News, June 2008].
The move followed several injuries that the playful or deliberately provoked seal inflicted upon swimmers, death-threats issued against her, and concerns by tourist enterprises and local government that her antics might ultimately drive away tourists rather than attract them.
Rescued in December 2006 as an orphaned pup, Badem underwent rehabilitation in Foça with expertise provided by the Zeehondencrèche Lenie ‘t Hart of the Netherlands, but became imprinted on her human carers during the 5-month process.
Despite ups and downs since her rescue and release, Badem has become a powerful ambassador for her species among the Turkish public, appearing in numerous newspapers and television reports.
Cem Orkun Kıraç, coordinator of SAD-AFAG, the Turkish NGO that coordinated the rehabilitation, reports that Badem was removed from the increasingly tourist-busy coasts of Gökova Bay she was frequenting, in favour of a more isolated area, where use could also be made of local fish farm infrastructure and equipment. Although the seal was placed in a small fish pen to begin with, efforts were swiftly made to expand the area of her confinement:
“The Ministry of Environment and Forest, the Specially Protected Area Authority and Mugla Governorship agreed to keep Badem in a controlled area temporarily,” Kıraç told us. “SAD-AFAG acts as advisor and field coordinator in this process. The sea area is a customized design covering 2500m2 in total and it is not confined with a net at the bottom — Badem has direct contact with the seabed. Keeping her in a fish cage was brief, and for the beginning only. Badem's health is very good and the unwanted interaction between the young seal and humans has been halted. The locality where we keep her cannot be made public to avoid attracting insistently interested people. She is fed with alive fish.”
National daily newspaper Hürriyet reported that the temporary pen measures 25m2 and, with some adaption, would be used as a haul-out area for the seal.
Hürriyet also quoted Kıraç as reassuring concerned parties that “Badem will stay at her new home until the tourist season is over.”
The Turkish NGO, reports Hürriyet, is hoping that Badem’s temporary confinement will help divert her attention away from humans — and perhaps even towards finding a mate as she nears sexual maturity. Underlining the importance of the mission and the severity of the problems faced, Kıraç was quoted as saying: “No one should think that we’ve put Badem into a prison. Given the circumstances we had to take measures to isolate her. Neither a nature activist nor anyone else would like to see a wild animal captive even for a short time. Unfortunately, people showed too much interest when she was released and Badem is a warm hearted seal in character. She couldn’t stay away from people. Chances were high that some hostile interactions would occur between the seal and the people. Schools are out. There could have been problems with kids. Therefore we chose a remote place where no one can reach her on land, a small bay in Marmaris. From now on we request that no one, including nature lovers, researchers and nature activists, should get close to Badem.”
Stressing that the action was with the full knowledge and approval of the authorities, he added: “If we hadn’t taken Badem into a controlled environment, we would have faced two kinds of danger. One for Badem. She was loved in a way that ended up in constant annoyance for her, and sometimes harassment. She needed to be saved from these. The other danger is for people. Badem is a wild animal. She is not a pet. Playing with her, 10-15 people have been about to drown. They hardly saved themselves. They shouldn’t have played with her in the first place. In this special pool, Badem will be our guest until the end of the tourist season. She’ll be away from people, adapt to nature. When she sees less of people we hope she’ll forget about them.”
Other sources and photographs
Hürriyet. Badem Photo Gallery.
Hürriyet. Fok Badem'e denizde yuva, 6 July 2008.
NTV/MSNBC. Fok Badem koruma altında, 7 July 2008.
Hürriyet. 2500 m2’lik özel havuzda, 14 July 2008.
Hürriyet. Fok Badem'in keyfi yerinde, 18 July 2008.
TMG expresses its warm and sincere thanks to İlksen D. Baş for Turkish to English translations.