Cape Town - South African National Parks has issued a plea to all members of the public to help conserve the endangered Knysna seahorses found along the Knysna estuary in the Garden Route.
Endemic to South Africa, they are only found in certain estuaries along South Africa's southern coastline. According to SANParks, the delicate seahorses are also estuarine dependent, and 'sinister behaviour' and pollution at their natural habitat are causing concern over the creatures' well-being.
"We are asking members of the public to help us protect seahorses for the current and future generations," SANParks says.
Joining anti-pollution drives and beach clean-ups can all aid in helping the sensitive eco-system at the Knysna estuary thrive.
Fortunately, South African law protects Knysna seahorses. The law states that seahorses must not be caught or disturbed in their natural environment.
But leading into the busy festive season, SANParks urged again for all members of the public to respect the creatures in their natural habitat.
The Knysna seahorse is an endangered species according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) Red Data List and it is a protected species under the South African Environmental Management Biodiversity Act.
According to the Red Data List, "The species is experiencing continuing decline in the extent of occurrence, the area of occupancy, quality of habitat, and a number of locations in which it is found. The species is also experiencing extreme fluctuations in its area of occupancy."
Several restricted activities are prohibited in terms of these regulations and legislation.
Gathering, collecting, catching, importing, exporting, selling, luring, pursuing, feeding, translocation or moving of a seahorse except for scientific purposes is against the law, and offenders can be punished by law if caught.
Last year, poaching and illegal selling of the Knysna seahorses posed a great threat to their survival.
There are also strict laws about importing seahorses into South Africa from other parts of the world.
If you're in the area this upcoming summer season, here are a few protection tips to remember:
Report any sinister or suspected illegal activity at the Knysna estaury to SANParks' Garden Route offices
Keep the beaches and estuaries clean at all times
Do no swim in un-designated areas where the sensitive eco-systems may be distrurbed
Do not fish in or close to the Knysna Estuary where seahorses may be present
SANParks will also be hosted an educational talk on the Knysna Seahorse at the SANParks jetty, Thesen Island, Long Street, Knysna. Contact Owen Govender, Marine Ranger for Knysna, at 082 881 7769 or 072 112 8193 for more details.
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