In a heartwarming display of community unity, holidaymakers and local residents rushed to Lookout Beach in Plettenberg Bay earlier this week when news broke that hundreds of seahorses had washed ashore. This remarkable event, triggered by heavy rains and flooding in the Keurboomsriver and Bitou River, required a collaborative effort to rescue these fragile creatures and raise awareness about their conservation.
Cape Nature's Petro van Rhyn explained the situation, saying, "They were stranded on Wednesday morning just after low tide. The big swell on Thursday also perpetuated the situation and they got washed out the mouth into a current and then the waves deposited them onto the beach. The same phenomena occurred on Thursday."
Up to 1,004 seahorses were collected, with 706 successfully released back into their natural habitat. Remarkably, 94 seahorses were found deceased but preserved for research purposes.
This unusual event drew attention from both local and national communities, highlighting the significance of the Knysna seahorse, an iconic species endemic to only three Southern Cape Estuaries: the Knysna, Swartvlei, and Keurbooms Estuaries.
The Department of Forestry, Fisheries, and the Environment (DFFE) acknowledged the concerning incident and noted that similar effects were observed in other regions due to the recent heavy rainfall. In response to this unique situation, volunteers from "Save the Seahorse" and Cape Nature joined forces to collect the stranded seahorses and take them for rehabilitation.
The Knysna seahorse, the most endangered seahorse species globally and listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List since 2004, faces numerous threats. Recent surveys conducted by the ORCA Foundation revealed a decline in the Keurbooms estuary's seahorse population, primarily due to past floods. This emphasizes the importance of ongoing conservation efforts to protect these delicate creatures.
This heartening story serves as a reminder that with dedication, proper protection, and care, these remarkable seahorses can continue to thrive in their unique habitat. Melissa Nel, a conservationist and volunteer coordinator at the Orca Foundation, previously spotted and photographed a Knysna seahorse in Plettenberg Bay's Keurbooms estuary, highlighting the importance of preserving these elusive creatures. Nel's discovery emphasized the need for greater conservation efforts to ensure these species endure for future generations to enjoy.
The community's spontaneous response to the seahorse stranding event is a testament to the collective commitment to safeguarding Plettenberg Bay's unique marine life. As the world continues to witness extraordinary events in nature, the call for conservation and protection rings louder than ever. The Knysna seahorse, a true national treasure, remains a symbol of hope, resilience, and the power of community action in the face of environmental challenges.