Featherbed Co. Blog

Featherbed co. supports Knysna Seahorse research

Tales of seahorses are almost always filled with magical wonder and until you see one for yourself, it is easy to believe that these beautiful creatures are pure make-believe.

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Legends and ancient stories of seahorses tell of the Greek sea god Poseidon galloping through the oceans on a golden chariot pulled by Hippocampus, the beast that was half horse and half fish. Phoenicians and Etruscans often painted these charming creatures on the walls of burial chambers, accompanying the dead on their voyage across the seas and into the afterlife. Ancient Greek and Roman myths claim that seahorses could cure a bite from a rabid dog and if one were to eat a seahorse one would spend the rest of one's life drawn inexorably to the soothing sound of babbling rivers and streams.

When you visit the SANParks’ Thesens Island offices in Knysna you will meet our most precious inhabitant: the Knysna Seahorse! The species, incidentally, is known as Hippocampus capensis.

Only three Garden Route estuaries namely the Knysna Estuary, the estuarine portion of the Swartvlei system in Sedgefield, and further west in the Keurbooms River estuary in Plettenberg Bay, are home to Knysna seahorses. Due to this limited geographical range and its small overall population, the Knysna seahorse is listed as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) red list of threatened species.

The most recent assessment by the IUCN (2017) of this small, delicate creature, which measures only 12 centimeters in length, describes the population trend of the species as decreasing, with a continuing decline in area extent and/or quality of habitat, as well as the number of mature individuals. The same assessment also states that long-term monitoring to determine population size and trends for this species, habitat protection, and water management measures are needed to secure the future of the Knysna seahorse. Featherbed Co. decided to get involved!

A new population census for this species in the Knysna Estuary is needed as research on the Knysna seahorses has been sparse. A 2018 study that mapped the estuarine habitats within the Knysna Estuary showed that an alien invasive red algae has now become prevalent in the Knysna Estuary. Eelgrass, which is used by seahorses as habitat, could potentially be replaced by this alien algae. It is indeed the very presence of eelgrass in the Knysna Estuary is one of the reasons why Knysna received the highest ranking in terms of its ecological importance in South Africa. It is clear that the algae has to be eradicated to protect the seahorses' habitat.

Through a donation to SANParks, Featherbed Co., will aid in the achievement and advancement of these two aspects, namely determining and monitoring the population size and addressing the issue of habitat protection. SANPark SANParks entered into a partnership with Oceans Alive Conservation Trust and will use the Featherbed Co. funding to purchase underwater drone equipment for a new population survey that will be carried out in the Knysna and Swartvlei Estuaries in September 2023.