Seal rescuer calls for action

The director of a small tourist enterprise on Tinos, who earlier this month dived off a pier in gale-force winds to save a newborn seal from drowning, yesterday appealed for a concerted campaign to preserve the Mediterranean monk seal, one of the world’s most endangered mammals. «Authorities should emphasize the importance of protecting the monk seal,» Victoria Drouga told Kathimerini. Of some 500 monk seals left in the world, around half live off Greek shores but they are endangered by overfishing and pollution. «If we all become sensitized to this issue, maybe some good can be done,» said Drouga, who on October 1 leaped off a pier at Kolybithra in northern Tinos and rescued a seal pup that had been floundering in the choppy waters. «The sea was so rough that I had problems getting to the seal which was being tossed about by the waves,» Drouga said, noting that winds had reached 9 Beaufort. Drouga, who jumped into the water fully clothed to get to the seal in time, said she was shocked to see that it still had its umbilical cord attached. According to experts from the Hellenic Society for the Study and Protection of the Monk Seal (MOM) the pup was just four days old when it was found. MOM officials could not travel to Tinos on the day of the seal’s rescue, due to a ban on ships sailing in bad weather, so they gave Drouga instructions over the telephone to ensure that the pup would survive the next 24 hours. «They told me not to feed her, to keep her warm and in view of the sea, as her mother might be looking for her,» Drouga said. Sure enough, another seal turned up in the same spot half an hour later but disappeared before it could be caught by Drouga, who dived into the water again. «I thought it might have been another baby,» she said. The next day, MOM officials arrived and took the pup, which they named Victoria after its rescuer, and are now caring for it at their base on the island of Alonissos. Drouga said MOM workers regularly brief her on the seal’s progress. «They told me that they tried to put her in the water but she didn’t like it,» she said, adding that the seal would be released back into the sea in four months’ time if all goes well.