Friday, 1 March 2013

Breeding Seahorses

Things have looked up a bit since the last post.  We’ve moved into a small backpackers' guest house, run by an itinerant Irishman and his Cambodian wife, near the beaches where there are restaurants and (sadly!) lots of facilities for Europeans and where it’s much safer to walk around at night. (Don't you just hate being european and middle class!) The Panda costs only 18$US per night and has airconditioning (when the power supply permits) and wi-fi.  Renne cooks us nice Khmer food and Patrick does Neil’s eggs and bacon!

We’re also getting the opportunity to take the children down to the beach every afternoon. 
One of the things that Neil’s son is doing in Cambodia is surveying the seahorse population - there are some very rare species here, getting rarer by the minute, as they are in great demand for Chinese medicine.

Neil’s son, helped by a young marine biologist working for virtually no money, is trying to breed them in tanks so that they can be reintroduced into the wild.  It’s a very tricky business, as seahorses are not easy to breed in captivity.  They are shy, wild and unusual - virtually the only animal where the male gets pregnant!  Dad can pop out several hundred at a time, of which only 1 in a thousand makes it to adulthood.  They hope to do better in the tanks.

This is phytoplankton -  the bottom of the food chain for the seahorses - they live on tiny, live, shrimp who get fed on the plankton.

These are babies - but still recognisable.

These juveniles are doing very well and beginning to hold on to things.

This is a much more grown-up individual.  Sea horses take six months to reach sexual maturity - a long time to keep something as fragile as this alive in a tank.

Chinese prosperity seems to be the greatest threat to wildlife at the moment - the demand for rhino horn and dried sea-horse for medicine, as well as the taste for sharks’ fin soup (90% of the sharks in the ocean have already gone) and African ivory is increasing with the expansion of the Chinese economy.

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