A sea cave that has been restored in the Agios Georgios Alamanos in Monagroulli, Limassol will be a shelter for seals and fruit bats, Agriculture Minister Costas Kadis announced on Friday after visiting the area.
The minister examined the recently completed restoration project and was informed by a scientific team about future actions in the wider region. The cave is already a refuge for the Mediterranean seal and is expected to attract the protected fruit species again.
At the moment, there are believed to be 19 seals in the sea around Cyprus, while there are less than 1,000 fruit bats.
“Until August, the Mediterranean seals, (Monachus monachus) regularly visited the sea cave in Agios Georgios Alamanos, either for rest or for protection from the turbulence of the sea, despite the poor condition in which it was,” the agriculture ministry said. It was also a shelter for fruit bats.
With the aim of protecting the Mediterranean seal and creating a suitable space in which it can reproduce, the agriculture ministry started to restore the cave, considered the most important in the area, a month ago.
The restoration work was carried out on land, a few metres from the entrance of the cave, which is located in the sea. The aim was to improve the cave without altering its physical condition.
Hundreds of cubic metres of soil were initially removed from the cave, where it had built up during previous years, reducing the space the seals could use.
An attempt was made to place insulating materials in the cave to create the conditions which are best for both species.
According to the ministry’s announcement the restoration works were completed in a very short time so as not to disturb the area and were carried out by three departments of the agriculture ministry: the forestry department, the department of fisheries and marine research and the environment department.
A monitoring system has also been installed in the cave, with the help of which the activities inside the cave can be observed.
“Monitoring revealed that very early after its restoration, the cave began to be used by the Mediterranean seals,” the agriculture ministry reported.
“This is the first time that such an action is attempted both in Cyprus and in the wider Eastern Mediterranean region. This shows the will of the ministry for the implementation of actions to conserve endangered species and also for the scientific training of its officials, who study, evaluate and implement similar actions.”
Few Mediterranean seals have been seen from 1960 until 2010, and there was no indication of reproduction.
However, from 2011 onwards it seems the species has been recovering in Cypriot seas and there is now a local population which is small but breeding. The first confirmed reproduction was recorded by the monitoring team in 2011, while since 2015 the animals have bred on a continuous basis.
“Particularly important was the breeding season 2019-2020 for the Mediterranean seal, since three births of this rare species were recorded on our island, something that happened for the first time in several decades. This is an extremely auspicious event for the preservation of the Mediterranean seal in Cyprus.”
Cyprus is the only European country where the fruit bat can be found, and the agriculture ministry expects that following the restoration of the area the species will return to the cave.
Both species are included in European directives and national laws as endangered and in need of protection.