The Knysna seahorse is the only one that is on the endangered list of the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
NATIONAL NEWS - SANParks has implored members of the public to help them to protect Knysna's seahorses by joining anti-pollution campaigns, spreading awareness about the seahorse and by reporting sinister behaviour around the estuary.
Found in quiet waters among eelgrass, commonly seen along the length of the estuary, the Knysna sea horse is actually a fish. Of the 33 fish species recorded in the estuary, seven are estuarine dependent species like the seahorse.
The scientific name for the Knysna Seahorse is Hippocampus Capensis. All seahorses belong to the genus Hippocampus, from the Greek words for horse (hippos) and sea monster (campus).
The literal translation of Hippocampus Capensis is 'Horse Sea Monster from the Cape'. Seahorses have gills, a swim bladder and fins like a fish.
There are approximately 30 to 40 different kinds of seahorses in the world, five of which were spotted in Southern Africa. The Knysna seahorse is the only one that is on the endangered list of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Hence they are displayed in only two aquariums - uShaka Marine in Durban and Two Oceans in Cape Town, the national zoological gardens in Pretoria and the SANParks offices on the Thesen Island jetty in Knysna.
With the assistance of a specialist from the Knysna basin project, Louw Claasen, SANParks manage the seahorses guided by an international manual on seahorses.
More about seahorses
The unusual arrangement of their fins makes seahorses slow swimmers therefore they rely on camouflage to escape detection by predators.
The male and female have an elaborate, daily courtship ritual, involving a dance where they entwine their tails, and may change colour. Many seahorses are monogamous, mating for life.
Seahorses have no teeth or stomach. They use their mouths to suck on prey, usually plankton and small crustaceans.
Since they do not have a stomach, food passes through their bodies very quickly which means they need to eat regularly. Daily if not often, rangers collect macro-organisms, plankton, shrimps (brokeback shrimps) and anthropods (crustaceans) which serve as food for seahorses as well as eelgrass and codium plants.
Seahorses are protected from being harvested. Fortunately there is a law in South Africa that protects Knysna seahorses. The law states that seahorses must not be caught or disturbed in their natural environment. There are also strict laws about importing seahorses into South Africa from other parts of the world.
The Knysna Seahorse is a protected species and gathering, collecting, catching, importing, exporting, selling, luring, pursuing, feeding, translocation or moving of a seahorse except for scientific purposes, are illegal.
The life cycle of seahorses range from 3 to 5 years.
Rangers offer educational talks around the seahorse tanks at SANParks jetty, Thesen Island, Long Street, Knysna.
Contact Knysna marine ranger, Owen Govender on 082 881 7769 or 072 112 8193.
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