Plett community unites to save critically endangered seahorses 

Plett community unites to save critically endangered seahorses
Published: February 15th, 2024

Plett community unites to save critically endangered seahorses

“1,079 critically endangered Knysna seahorses stranded on Lookout Beach, with 737 successfully released back into their habitat.” 

In late September 2023, our dedicated Plett Stranding Network, which includes our researcher Melissa and field assistant Julene, received an urgent call regarding a significant event on Lookout Beach: a mass stranding of Knysna seahorses. The Knysna seahorse, a species classified as critically endangered, faced this dire situation.

Although not exploited for traditional medicines, these seahorses are documented as the most endangered among their kind worldwide, according to the IUCN’s Red Data Book. This grim status primarily stems from their extremely limited habitat range, confined to a few select southern Cape estuaries.

In response to the distress signal shared on social media, the Plettenberg Bay community rallied together in a remarkable display of unity. Hundreds of local residents and visitors rushed to the beach, armed with buckets, in search of stranded seahorses. The recent heavy rains had led to the flooding of the Keurbooms River, resulting in powerful water currents that swept away the seagrass beds within the estuary, the vital habitat of these seahorses.

Consequently, they were washed out to sea during the outgoing tide and eventually found themselves back on the beach, courtesy of the incoming waves. Cape Nature swiftly implemented a series of protocols to manage the situation. All rescued seahorses were brought to the lifeguard tower, where volunteers meticulously counted and sorted them into categories: strong, weak, or deceased.

A dedicated team of volunteers then carefully released the healthy seahorses into a safe and tranquil area within the estuary, nestled among the eelgrass. The weaker seahorses received stabilization and care overnight, with subsequent release the following day. Meanwhile, the deceased seahorses were preserved for further examination by seahorse experts and researchers.

This collective effort showcased the incredible commitment of our community to the preservation of nature. The final tally of this rescue mission speaks volumes: a total of 1,079 seahorses were collected, with 737 successfully released back into their habitat, while 342 unfortunately did not survive.