Never has an endangered creature been so approachable. Argyro, the Mediterranean monk seal, first came to attention when posing for tourists off the shores of Samos in the eastern Aegean. Since then, the friendly 150-kg animal has been treated like a pet by most and has gained something of a cult following on the island. The tide turned against her, however, over the summer when the monachus monachus seal left at least two people injured.
For her safety and that of visitors, the local authorities decided to find Argyro and transfer her to a more isolated region before she causes more injuries in the name of fun, games and shenanigans that Europe’s friendliest seal has gained a cult following for.
The decision to transfer Argyro was approved by Alternate Environment Minister Yiannis Tsironis. “Argyro would come out of the water and onto the beaches of Samos from a very young age. It wasn’t a problem when she was small but these cases don’t usually end well,” says Panos Dendrinos of MOm, an NGO created for the protection of the Mediterranean monk seal. It is up to MOm to find, catch and relocate the sociable seal.
The accidents reported over summer happened while people were swimming. Argyro came close to them and started to play. Believing that humans can stay under water for as long as seals, the 150-kilogram seal started frolicking with the people, placing their lives in danger. The seal will now be taken away and integrated with her own species.
Of course, not everyone is happy and Argyro will be missed by sunbathers who found their interaction with the wild, but friendly animal quite exhilarating. Now, authorities are asking for people to report her whereabouts or to leave her alone rather than become “friends” or create a relationship that can only harm and jeopardize Argyro’s return to the wild.