More than 30,000 seahorse cubs are released to save species

When she left Rio Grande do Sul towards the Northeast, twenty years ago, biologist Rosana Silveira could not have imagined the dimension that her project to introduce seahorses into nature would take.

Since 2009, when the data began to be counted, there have been 34.948 puppies released by the initiative led by her. The action, called the Hippocampus Project, alludes to the genus (Hippocampus) of animals.

“The first time I saw the seahorse, I immediately fell in love and thought: ‘I want to study this animal’ . I ran after books, bibliographies, advisors, they didn’t exist because there wasn’t anyone who worked with seahorses, and I ended up being the first in Brazil. says Silveira, coordinator of the project.

Among the threats to seahorses are environmental pollution, fishing, use in handicraft items and even use in aphrodisiac medicines.

Starting in Rio Grande do Sul, the project moved to Pernambuco in 2001, starting at the paradisiacal beach of Maracaípe, in the Porto de Galinhas region.

Since last year, the initiative has been expanded to the area of ​​the Suape Port Complex, after a link with the state agency of the government of Pernambuco. The Hippocampus Project has also had partnerships with Petrobras and city halls.

After the support of Suape, in 2020, more than 20, 4 thousand young seahorses were bred in aquariums and taken to the estuaries. The port is located between Ipojuca and Cabo de Santo Agostinho, in Greater Recife.

“With this study, in addition to contributing to the preservation of the seahorse and protecting this species, which is practically extinct, we are enabling the continuity of the institute, which almost closed its doors permanently, due to lack of resources”, says the director of Environment and Sustainability of the Port Complex, Carlos André Cavalcanti.

The biggest The challenge now is to help reverse the adverse scenario that places seahorses as endangered species, which can cause an ecological imbalance in the aquatic ecosystem.

Each offspring released is derived from couples rescued in the estuaries. Of the total number of offspring bred in captivity, 34% are introduced into the estuary of the Maracaípe River, where the project has been operating for the longest time, and 15%, in the watercourses of the territory. They live in salt water, but they also manage to stay without major problems in stretches of rivers close to the sea, that is, near the mouths.

“If we weren’t acting, maybe there wouldn’t be more seahorses in Maracaípe. We have already released thousands of newborns, which is still not ideal. The ideal would be to release smaller amounts of larger animals, because the survival rate would be much higher”, says Silveira.

Animals have an average of seven millimeters when they are newborns and, because of that, they have great chances of being consumed by other fish.

Among the main characteristics of seahorses is the possibility of changing color according to the environment. Gestation takes between and days, and the males are responsible for carrying the offspring in a incubator bag, which provides the nutrients necessary for the animals’ development.

The Hippocampus Project also works with the monitoring of species in the region through diving. However, there is still no technique to find out where the specimens generated in the project’s captivity are, because of the small size of these animals, which can live for five to seven years.

Silveira says he believes that , despite actions such as the project’s, there is a lack of greater engagement by the public authorities in the preservation of species, in addition to seahorses. “We need a deeper look at the environmental issue, including when it comes to endangered species.”

“Any living being has its importance within the ecosystem”, he adds.

To continue with the support, which, according to the current contract, runs until the end of February, the Suape Complex says it seeks to raise more resources and new partnerships. The trend is for renovation, with expansion of objectives, according to the administration.

“We want the project to return to its origins with a visitation center to receive tourists, schools and interested parties, and with that to have Our challenge now is to set up this project in an area that is touristically possible to receive people and that the project can develop”, says Cavalcanti.

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