By KIM SANTO | 03 March 2016 08:33:30When a monk seals, it means he is not only living life but living with it in a way that makes him different from other seals, writes Kim Santo.
He has a distinct, almost tribal, character.
It is a rare opportunity for a marine mammal to be kept as a seal.
The World Wildlife Fund estimates there are about 400,000 monk seals around the world, but only a few hundred thousand are living on land.
The monk seal has no territorial or reproductive rights and its seal-like habitat is often too small to survive in.
“When you’re living in a small population like that, the chance of you getting sick is pretty low,” says Scott Cottrell, director of marine conservation at the Australian Institute of Marine Science.
“It’s not uncommon for a seal to die at a young age, and there are other seals out there who do that, and they just die at the age of 15 or 16.”
It’s easy to think of monk seals as a solitary species, but they can be social, and sometimes, when there are too few of them, they will congregate in groups.
That’s why some monks seal colonies are so small.
They do it to be close to the seals, and if the seals are not close, then the seals will take the opportunity to mate and lay their eggs.
But, says Cottrel, it’s not unusual for there to be more than one seal on a colony.
“Sometimes they have a few seals, sometimes they have two, sometimes three seals,” he says.
“There’s always a chance they’ll have a little bit of trouble.
It’s very rare that you’re going to be able to find out exactly what’s going on with them.”
The monk seal’s survival in the wild is the result of a lot of work by conservationists.
For the past two decades, they have spent tens of thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours on research and habitat restoration in the Western Highlands of Queensland.
The Western Highlands is a vast, remote region that’s home to the last remaining monk seals in the world.
This is the region where they live, but the last seal colony in the region was wiped out by pollution in 2002.
“It was a very sad day, and I think the whole community felt it,” says Coyle-Santos, whose work has taken him to the Western Highland.
“But we’ve been able to recover from that and we’ve come back to a very high standard of care.”
“The monks are really good people, and we just have to make sure that we’re not over-fishing them,” he adds.
The work he’s done in the past decade is now paying off.
In 2007, Cottrie-Santsos began working with a small team of researchers to restore monk seal colonies in the Highlands, and now, with a team of 20 scientists, he’s got an area that stretches from the Gulf of Carpentaria in the south to the Red Rock Sea in the north.
He’s been able, for the first time, to observe seals in action.
“You have the seals sitting on their haunches, and the seals looking at them,” Cottri-Sonsos says.
“We’ve got two young seals that we have to hold back, and these two seals are doing the same thing.”
The researchers use a camera, a GPS collar and a thermal camera to record how seals move.
They also have to record their reactions, and when seals move, they use the camera to track their movements.
The seals that live in the western Highlands are the smallest group of seals in Australia, so the team has a lot to work with.
“What we’re doing is trying to find some way to get to know them and their behaviours, so that we can figure out how they’re doing,” Cotterell says.
The team has developed a technology called thermal imaging, which can track the movements of seals over time.
This technology can also be used to track seals, but is especially useful for studying the seals’ behaviour.
“The seals will move around, and you can’t see them because they’re camouflaged and they’re hidden in a lot more layers than we’re aware of,” says Craig Tinkler, a marine biologist at the University of Western Sydney.
“You can’t look at them and see where they are and what they’re moving.
They have to be moving and reacting to each other to get away.”
The team uses thermal imaging to see how seals react to the presence of humans.
It uses a heat source, such as a lamp, to measure the temperature of the water, and then measures the surface temperature of that water as it moves through the seals.
This information is then used to calculate how much energy the seals expend when they move.
“If we have a lot less energy in the seal when it moves, and more energy when it