CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (Feb. 21, 2002)
- The enchanting creatures known as seahorses are unique
and captivating animals whose survival is seriously threatened.
Seahorses can be found in tropical and temperate seas all
over the world and adults have few major natural predators.
This is primarily because they are covered with bony plates
and may be a less-than-tasty morsel for larger fish. However,
several factors are contributing to the decline of seahorses
and their relatives.
One cause of
the declining populations is loss of habitat. These fragile
animals live in coastal grassy areas, mangrove swamps and
coral reefs - all areas that coincide with human activities.
Pollution, changing shorelines and harmful fishing methods
contribute to habitat loss and increase the seahorses' vulnerability.
another reason for the decline in seahorse numbers. The
demand for seahorses far exceeds the supply. Most seahorses
that are caught - an astounding 20 million a year - are
used in traditional Chinese medicine. In some cultures,
it is believed that seahorses benefit or cure many conditions
including asthma, impotence and general lethargy.
millions of dried seahorses are purchased as souvenirs,
to be used on key chains and as jewelry. Many are also sold
for use in home aquariums, but few of these animals survive
for long because maintaining seahorses requires resources
not easily accessible to home aquarium enthusiasts. The
United States is the largest importer of live seahorses.
Jackson Andrews, Tennessee Aquarium director of operations
and husbandry, an increase in public education and awareness
is necessary to protect these beautiful and threatened animals.
the goals of the Aquarium's new gallery, "Seahorses:
Beyond Imagination," is to make our visitors aware
of the challenges facing these delicate creatures,"
Andrews said. "By inspiring wonder and awe in our visitors,
we hope they will come away from this exhibit with a desire
to play an active part in protecting seahorses."
Help protect seahorses:
Beyond visiting the Aquarium's seahorse gallery and supporting
conservation efforts, there are things that can be done
- Don't buy
dried seahorses in craft stores or at beach shops. They
were actually live animals, killed simply to make decorative
- Don't keep
seahorses in home aquariums. Seahorses have special water
quality and food needs that only the most expert home
aquarists can meet.
- Take care
to protect our local waters, many of which flow into the
Gulf of Mexico. Recycle your motor oil and apply lawn
fertilizer sparingly. These local actions can help safeguard
seahorse habitats miles from home.