By Kately Nikiforuk
The latest iSeahorse VIP-horse is Hippocampus capensis, also known as the Knysna seahorse, an Endangered species hailing from just a few South African river mouths. Thanks to our colleague Louw Claassens, the director of the Knysna Basin Project and iSeahorse National Seahorse Expert, for this spectacular shot and submitting it to iSeahorse.
As a protected species, H. capensis cannot be removed from the water for either commercial trade or subsistence fishing. However, the very water they swim in threatens their survival, due to pollution and degradation of the three water bodies they call home, the Swartvlei, Keurbooms and Knysna estuaries. Their combined surface area is only about 27 square kilometres. The Knysna estuary, which is their primary habitat, inconveniently happens to be a site of heavy human activity.
The fact that their population declined by at least 50% in only a decade might sound pretty bleak, but luckily H. capensis has Louw Claassens on their side. The Knysna Basin Project has the same core objectives as Project Seahorse: research, education and conservation. One of their current endeavours is the Knysna Seahorse Status (KySS) project, a long-term, ongoing effort which started in 2014 to understand key elements of their biology. This has included studying everything from body size to home-range size, and involved the use of tools such as VIFE (visible implant fluorescent elastomer) tags and artificial Reno mattress habitats.