The “Operazione Foca monaca” project was launched on September 22nd; the planned actions are in full swing and are arousing a lot of interest.
Fourteen newspapers, including Corriere della sera, and three television networks were interested in the various actions that make up the project. Also Ansa Nazionale spoke of Operation Nun Seal.
We think that the reader may find it unusual to dedicate a project to an animal whose traces are no longer found on our coasts, given that even sightings have been interrupted since the early eighties.
But the monk seal (Monachus monachus) has been timidly returning to the northern areas of the Mediterranean in the last two years. Actually, it was sighted and photographed in Salento, along the coasts of southern Sardinia, in the Tuscan Archipelago and off the Ligurian coast.
Do you remember how wolf populations were reduced to a few nuclei in the central-southern Apennines, in the early 1970s? The wolf is currently present in the Apennines and the Alps from the Aspromonte to the Western Alps! Of course, its behavioural plasticity was important for the recovery of its populations, but we also think that the information and awareness campaigns that were conducted in those years were fundamental.
We would like to do the same with this wonderful marine mammal. The first step is to convince the local populations of the falsehood of the many slanders that have supported the extermination of seals in the past. To facilitate the rapprochement of seals to our coasts, it is essential to build, in the inhabitants of these coasts, serious knowledge of this species, by means of pleasant and participatory actions.
Thus was born “Operazione Foca monaca”, a project consisting of many actions dedicated to citizens of all ages, that has been planned and organized by our association, EARTH GARDENERS, in collaboration with the Diomedea Cooperative of Villasimius and LIPU Sardinia. The purpose of the project is to make the monk seal known (we could say to make it “popular”) in order to avoid it being disturbed if it decides to stop on our coasts. In fact, it is really essential that we avoid disturbing it in the sighting places.
In the “Operazione Foca monaca” project this animal also acquires the role of testimonial of the knowledge of the state of conservation of the coastal marine territories and of the thousand problems that haunt them.
To achieve these ambitious goals we started from Sardinia, a region that hosted the last colonies of Seal, and involved many actors of the Peninsula that will help us in this difficult but exciting journey.
The children, for whom we have prepared a game that starts from the video cartoon “Story of a monk seal told by herself“, will start a search guided by special cards and, starting from the information acquired, they will compose stories by colouring, cutting and animating specially made comic drawings. The drawings represent two backgrounds on which the “characters”, the species that appear in the cartoon video, will interpret the stories. The comic stories created by children in spring will “blossom” in an ebook: The Adventures of Cetti. Cetti is the protagonist of the video cartoon and the children are entrusted with the task of inventing the adventures that the young seal lives during the journey that takes her from Croatia to the Ligurian coasts, going around the boot.
We will ask older children and adults, through precise indications and providing the ebook Today we talk about the Monk seal as a starting point, the important task of carrying out historical-documentary research on the presence of the monk seal in coastal areas. The research, which will answer specific questions, will concern the moments and reasons for the departure of the Seal from our coasts and will become an ebook consisting of interviews, videos, photos, and texts: The Mediterranean Monk Seal. Stories of conflicts and pacifications.
Creating a network to share news and sightings is essential if we want to protect the presence of this mammal; the creation of citizen science groups is undoubtedly the first step to give life to new initiatives at the local level. A series of seminars, “To learn more”, which will be held in February in Oristano by experts and scientists, will start the formation of these groups. The seminars will also be attended by teachers who want to work with their classes on initiatives dedicated to children and young people, thus creating a synergy between schools and citizens.
The most important initiative of the whole project will be the creation of two collective works of art, directed by two internationally renowned artists, in which citizens of all ages will participate. The two works will represent Monk seals in natural dimensions and will be built with scrap cardboard and unsold newspaper pulp.
The workshop for the construction of the load-bearing structures began on 2nd October in Sassari in the premises made available by the “Messaggerie sarde” bookshop, partner and sponsor of the project. More details on the development of the works in Building monk seals with Angela and Edoardo with materials taken from the pulp.
Short direct videos on the progress of the work, accompanied by interviews with the artists, who illustrated the technique used and the motivations behind the works, were broadcast every day on the EARTH GARDENERS Facebook page. The Workshop was open to the public from 5pm to 7pm.
On 12th October, at the closing of the Workshop, the supporting structure of a seal had been completed; the second will be completed in April at “Messaggerie sarde”, while the outermost parts for which newspaper pulp will be used, will be made from 10th to 12th April.
The works created are currently on display in Sassari at the Messaggerie Sarde bookshop and they are available to those who wish to approach this form of art and the underlying themes. At the same bookshop, an exhibition corner has been set up with the materials made as a gift for those who want to contribute with an offer to the realization of Operazione Foca monaca project.
The whole project, in fact, is based exclusively on voluntary work; the expenses that its complexity imposes are also entrusted to a fundraiser on the “Produzioni dal basso” platform through which we will send specially created materials to the generous people who have donated.
Re-establishing a friendship with the monk seal will not be easy, we ask you to help us by personally participating in the various actions and by concretely helping us by joining the fundraising.
Further updates will be published on this site and on our Facebook page.
Author: Anna Lacci is a scientific popularizer and expert in environmental education and sustainability and in territory teaching. She is the author of documentaries and naturalistic books, notebooks and interdisciplinary teaching aids and multimedia information materials.
Translation by Maria Antonietta Sessa