Scientists have made seahorse hotels to save the species

The White’s seahorse is the second most endangered species in the world. Boating and human activities threaten its native habitat in Sydney Harbour on Australia’s east coast.

But a new breeding program, including custom-built seahorse hotels, aims to increase the sea-dwelling creature’s population, according to the Associated Press.

The majority of Australians populate the nation’s east coast, causing the White’s seahorse to lose large parts of its natural habitat.

The initiative is a partnership between the Sea Life Sydney Aquarium, the Fisheries division of the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries (DPI) and the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS).

The organizations plan to release 95 seahorses bred in captivity into Sydney Harbour. Pairs were selected from the area in October 2019 and the couples have spent the past six months at the breeding facility at Sea Life.

“By releasing these babies, the idea is to restart the populations and get them breeding and mating,” Dr. David Harasti, a senior marine scientist with DPI Fisheries, told the Associated Press.

While seahorses have been bred before, it was never to release them back into the wild.

“The good thing about seahorses is that they get pregnant quite easily,” says Dr. Harasti. “The problem is in the wild, when these little baby seahorses come out they’re only about a centimeter long and they look like tasty little dinner snacks to all the fish around them.”

The solution the program came up with is protective “seahorse hotels” or the nine artificial habitats sunken to the bottom of Sydney Harbour on March 6. The hotels are biodegradable and have spent two months growing coral, sponges and algae.

“As the steel itself sort of degrades away a lot of corals, sponges and encrusting sea organisms sort of land and take hold of that structure,” Robbie McCracken, assistant curator and seahorse expert at Sea Life, told Associated Press. “That grows into a really suitable habitat for seahorses and all the food they like to eat.”

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