18 September 2009

Seeking Seahorses at Tanah Merah

Today, we are helping Collin of NParks with his seahorse tagging programme. The programme will help us better keep track of where our seahorses are and how they are doing.
The tricky part is to find the seahorses. Hurrah for Cheong who found this loving couple.

Not that they are very uncommon. On some shores, they can be quite regularly encountered. But they are very well camouflaged. Here's the first Estuarine seahorse (Hippocampus kuda) we found. In ripply water, it's hard to spot something that looks just like another bit of rubbish.
The second one was a little more obvious, but still, easily overlooked.
It's quite a bit of work to tag the seahorses. Aside from finding them, Collin has to prepare the harmless dye that is used to tag them. Which isn't really easy to do in the dark. A complaint I frequently make is that nature only gave us a pair of hands. We clearly could do with more.
The dye is gently inserted into the seahorse.
And measurements made of the animal, as well as other data recorded. So when we next see the seahorses we can tell them apart individually and record their growth, state of health and other details.
Here's what the seahorse looks like after its been tagged. It is a female.
Here's another female.
While these were found as a pair together (in the first photo on this post). This is the female.
And here is the very 'pregnant' male.
Collin and Cheong found another pair after I had left them. Wow, a total of six of these amazing animals.

The seahorses are not harmed by the tagging process which is done very quickly. Seahorse tagging is also done elsewhere in the world. Such as in Spain (from the BBC Gallery which also shows how the dye is mixed and inserted) and the UK. Here's more about technical aspects of seahorse tagging on the Seahorse Project website (PDF).

Our seahorses are listed as 'Vulnerable' in the Red List of threatened animals of Singapore. Globally, seahorses are threatened by habitat loss and over-collection for the live aquarium trade, traditional medicine trade and to be made into cheap souvenirs. More about threats to seahorses.

What to do if you see a seahorse on our shores?

Gently take a photo of it. If there is a tag (a flourescent mark on its body), try to take the photo showing the tag. Upload your photo to the flickr group Seahorse Sightings in Singapore. If you don't have and don't want to start a flickr account (which is free), you can email the photo to me Ria hello@wildsingapore.com.

Let's help protect our seahorses!
What you can do:
  • Don't keep a marine aquarium at home.
  • Don't buy products made from seahorses.
  • Don't litter. Plastic bags, strings and other litter that is not thrown into a proper bin will get washed down into a drain and eventually onto our shores.
  • Don't abandon fishing lines.
  • Don't use a drift net.
More about our seahorses on the wild fact sheets.

1 comment:

  1. It's nice to know that there are still seahorses in Singapore. And conservation work are done to make sure they don't go extinct.

    Great Job Nparks!



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