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Thursday, August 13, 1998 Published at 13:17 GMT 14:17 UK


Riding to horses' rescue

Intertwined seahorses are usually mates

The future of endangered seahorses is looking healthy once more after a successful UK project that began with just seven of the creatures.

Julie Etchingham reports form the Sealife Centre
Two years later the Sealife Centre in Weymouth is the world's most successful breeding centre for seahorses and advises organisations around the world.

The seahorses, found by local fishermen off the southern UK coast, now number 300, with eight different species reared and conserved.

[ image: The seahorses were found in UK waters]
The seahorses were found in UK waters
Seahorses' survival has long been under threat. They are used in Oriental medicine and 100 million are traded each year.

A marine biologist with the project, Robin James, said sharing their findings was one of the aims of the project.

"Trying to help other places and other places helping each other, I think that's a lot to do with it.

"Everyone helps each other and then we can have something to put back into the system, even if it's into the wild, even if it's just getting to know how they behave."

Watching breeding habits

Part of the centre's research has concentrated on seahorses' breeding habits.

[ image: Luminous tags enabled biologists to monitor a particular creature]
Luminous tags enabled biologists to monitor a particular creature
They were thought to be monogamous creatures, but that is now being questioned.

Tags are placed around the neck of seahorses so their behaviour can be monitored and mating patterns observed.

The centre is also using its expertise to branch out into other species.

It is breeding six big-bellied seahorses, and has obtained the only licence in Europe to import seadragons from Australia.

The aim is that the future for these spectacular fish, like that of the seahorse, can be ensured.

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