Rare celebrity seal Yulia believed spotted on Gaza shore for first time

The Hamas-run Ministry of Agriculture in Gaza reported on Wednesday that celebrity seal ‘Yulia’ was spotted for the first time in the Strip, shortly after a seal arrived off the coast of the coastal enclave before returning to the sea.

The ministry’s fisheries department said it has instructed fishermen not to touch the seals.

Also on Wednesday, the Kan public broadcaster quoted Israeli security sources as saying they had been updated by unspecified data in the Hamas-run enclave about Yulia’s arrival after several weeks on Israeli shores.

The report also said Israel’s military liaison to the Palestinians published instructions last week on how Gaza should act in its proximity if it appears.

The instructions state that passers-by should not get too close to Yulia, as she is afraid of humans; Photos and videos are a must go for no flash; And dogs should be kept away from the animal.

While several Israeli journalists shared on social media a photo of a seal in Gaza believed to be Yulia, the Ynet news site said the photo was of another seal from 2019 and that there was no confirmed photo of Yulia as of Wednesday.

Yulia, who was given her name by a local boy who first discovered her, arrived on the beach in Jaffa on 12 May.

Yulia, an endangered Mediterranean monk seal, rests on the beach in Tel Aviv, Israel, Tuesday, May 16, 2023. (AP/Ariel Shalit)

She quickly became the subject of 24-hour surveillance by both the press and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, which sent volunteers to keep watch and ensure she was not disturbed by the crowds of people that had gathered since her arrival.

Rare and Endangered Mediterranean Monk Seal He was last seen in Israel on Thursday in the country’s Sharon region.

Yulia is a Mediterranean monk seal, one of about 600-700 in the world, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, although other estimates put the number even lower. The species is classified as endangered.

When Yulia first arrived on Israeli shores she was deaf and trembling, and experts were concerned she was ill. But when Turkish researchers from the International Union for Conservation of Nature, or IUCN, received Yulia’s photos, they identified her as a monk seal they had already seen, named Tugra, who has been swimming for a long time. and has been known to both take naps. for an extraordinarily long time. She is over 20 years old and has a reputation for traveling, having been seen as far away as Greece and Turkey.

Large bite marks were also observed in two areas of her body and her hair was falling out, a process requiring a great deal of energy.

Guy Levine of the Nature and Parks Authority said it was the first time a Mediterranean monk seal had been seen resting off the coast of Israel. In 2010, a seal was observed for the first time riding waves close to the beach in Herzliya, but it did not land.

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