Photo by Noga Zilberberg/Israeli Nature and Parks Authority on 29 May, 2023

Julia, Israel’s Celebrity Seal, Spotted on Restricted Military Beach Site

Public By Pesach Benson • 29 May, 2023

Jerusalem, 29 May, 2023 (TPS) -- Julia, an endangered Mediterranean monk seal who has been winning Israeli hearts, beached herself on a restricted military site in the center of the country, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority said on Monday.

The Authority tweeted, jokingly at first, “They are considering giving her citizenship.”

But the Authority went on to say that, “During a beach scan for sea turtle nests this morning, Yulia was found resting on a closed beach which is a fire area in the center of the country. She looked healthy and in good shape.”

The area is known as Range 24 on the southern coast of Rishon LeZion and belongs to the Technology and Maintenance Corps of the Israel Defense Forces. The range is used for experiments with live ammunition, missiles, and special weapons, among other things.

In 2022, the IDF and the Rishon LeZion municipality reached an agreement in which a portion of the range would become a nature reserve with public access to the beach. However, explosives and shell casings must be cleared.

The Nature and Parks Authority did not indicate that Julia was in any danger.

Julia was first spotted on an Israeli beach on May 12, the first time a monk seal was ever seen in Israel. After seeing photos, Turkish researchers at the International Union for Conservation of Nature said they recognized Julia as a seal they had already seen in the past. The Turkish researchers said that Julia is over 20 years old, has been spotted in Turkey and Greece, and that they know her as Tugra.

They also noted that she swims long distances, which suggests that Julia may be resting before heading off for new adventures in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Dr. Mia Elser, of the Delphis Association, an Ashdod-based organization that researches and protects marine mammals, said the Mediterranean monk seal is one of the world’s 12 rarest mammals. Around 700 are believed to exist, the majority of which live on the coasts of Greece, Turkey and Cyprus. Others live off the coast of Western Sahara and Mauritania.

Their reproduction rate — one offspring every two to three years — means their likelihood of extinction is very high, Dr. Elser said.

The Nature and Parks Authority has been posting frequent updates about Julia’s comings and goings as Israeli interest in the seal continues.

According to the Authority, Julia “tried to rest on a beach in Bat Yam, but people who approached made her go back to the sea” before turning up in Rishon LeZion.

To people who want approach Julia, the Authority stresses, “Please keep your distance and allow her to come up safely to rest on the beach.”