Sameera Casmod | firstname.lastname@example.org
2 October 2023 | 14:00 SAST
Around 1,000 Knysna seahorses found themselves in a precarious situation recently, but thanks to the efforts of over 100 residents from Plettenberg Bay, these endangered marine creatures received a lifeline. The unexpected mass stranding of seahorses occurred on Wednesday, September 27, prompting an immediate response from the local community.
Petro van Rhyn, who holds the position of general manager of advocacy at CapeNature, expressed the significance of the Knysna seahorse in the context of South Africa’s biodiversity. This particular seahorse species is not only unique to South Africa but is also one of only two endangered seahorse species globally. It’s exclusively found in three Southern Cape estuaries—Knysna, Swartvlei, and Keurbooms—making it an iconic symbol for the Knysna region.
Remarkably, the community’s response to this marine crisis was spontaneous and enthusiastic, with news spreading rapidly through social media channels. Van Rhyn commended the public’s swift and coordinated efforts, characterising it as a tremendous community initiative that yielded substantial results.
The mass stranding event was attributed to heavy rainfall and subsequent flooding in the Keurbooms and Bitou Rivers. The flooding led to an increased water flow, which forced the seahorses out of the river mouth during a spring tide’s low tide. This unique set of circumstances resulted in the seahorses being stranded on the beach.
As of the latest update, 1,004 seahorses have been collected, and out of those, 706 have already been successfully released back into their natural habitat. Regrettably, 94 seahorses were discovered deceased, but they will serve a valuable purpose in research efforts.
The rescued seahorses are being returned to the estuaries where they naturally reside, particularly in areas with extensive eelgrass beds. These locations offer the seahorses the refuge, shelter, and sustenance they require.
Van Rhyn emphasised that while this event may seem like an ecological crisis, it is, in fact, a natural occurrence. In the event of significant flooding, a substantial portion of the seahorse population could be at risk. Fortunately, this occurrence was relatively minor in scale, highlighting the resilience of these unique marine creatures in the face of environmental challenges.