Ocean Park's new additions: small fry, but a big deal in the seahorse world

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 15 April, 2014, 5:19am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 15 April, 2014, 5:19am

Ocean Park is to showcase 53 newborn pipefish and seahorses that were successfully bred in Hong Kong for the first time.

The fry - 10 potbelly seahorses, 28 broadnosed pipefish and 15 black-striped pipefish - were born late last month in the marine park, along with two more of each pipefish species which have since died. The gender of the newborns - about two weeks old - is not yet known.

The births followed the introduction of eight new species for the park's exhibition "The Secret Lives of Seahorses", which is part of the park's Animal Discovery Fest that runs until May 11.

Adult potbelly seahorses were imported from Singapore while adult broadnosed and black-striped pipefish were imported from Portugal.

The exhibition will also feature the yellow seahorse, a species that can be found locally.

Walter Tang Yiu-ming, aquarium curator (marine exhibits) of the park, said it was difficult to maintain a suitable environment for seahorses as they were "sensitive" to changes in water flow, quality and temperature.

"They also eat a lot," he said.

He said the number of newborn potbelly seahorses was slightly less than might have been expected.

"The parents - only about one year old - are actually quite young and they arrived only recently to our new environment," he said.

The adult seahorses and pipefish will be transferred to the park's Grand Aquarium when the special exhibition ends and the newborns will join them there after three months.

Tang also commented on recent criticism from local green groups that the park's seahorse exhibition encouraged Hongkongers to buy seahorses from local aquarium shops or catch them from local waters and keep them as pets at home. Tang said the park did not mean to send that message.

"[Seahorses] are very vulnerable and need extensive care all day long to maintain a suitable environment for them," he said. "To keep them at home means they will die very easily."

The trading of all seahorse species is regulated under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

There are 54 seahorse species in the world, with 11 - including all three found in Hong Kong - listed as vulnerable or endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.