The West African Seahorse, Hippocampus algiricus, is not well understood. Little is known about its habitat and lifecycle even though over 600,000 of these animals are traded annually on the market with most of them ending up in China for Chinese medicine.
Kate West, a Masters student at the Imperial College London, wants to change that to better help the Senegalese and other governments better manage populations and maintain their CITES obligations for this species.
Kate performed extensive field research into this species for her Masters Thesis, extensively documenting threats to this species, its wildlife trade, biology, distribution, habitat, and economic value.
“Poor diving conditions and underwater visibility off the West African coast make it more difficult to conduct field studies than in other areas where seahorses are found,” Ms West said. “No research has been done on this species, and nothing is known about its habitat, life cycle, or population status, which is why this study is so vital for their conservation.” …
“In recent years, the West African seahorse has become highly sought after, along with many other seahorse species. Our fieldwork – the first ever study of this species – is revealing the fishing and trade pressures they face, and how populations can be sustained,” said Prof Amanda Vincent of the University of British Columbia, director of Project Seahorse.
Below is a video that Kate shot of H. algiricus (the first ever!) while diving off the coast of Senegal, which is on the western coast of Africa:
After studying a West African seahorse, researcher Kate West convinced the fishers to release the animal back into the wild. The seahorse swims away unharmed. Credit: Kate West / Project Seahorse