Birmingham’s National Sea Life Centre is urging its visitors to join a fight for survival…the survival of the world’s seahorses.
Home of a successful seahorse exhibition and breeding unit, the Centre is determined to do all it can to help combat the threat posed by the Chinese traditional medicine trade.
A recent undercover probe revealed China’s toll on seahorses is closer to 150 million per annum than the previous estimate of 20 million.
That mission by Irishman Kealan Doyle is featured in a disturbing documentary being screened by UKTV’s Eden Channel this Friday night, August 24th. An edited nine-minute version will be screened at the Sea Life centre.
“Experts are convinced most seahorses will be extinct within 20 years unless something is done,” said Birmingham Sea Life curator Graham Burrows.
“China has used seahorses in traditional medicines for 600 years, but in recent decades its demand for seahorses has spiraled out of control.
“Originally used in remedies for impotence, they are now being used in a whole range of products purporting to help cure baldness, stomach complaints and lots more.”
Sea Life has formed an alliance with The Seahorse Trust and Ireland’s Save Our Seahorses in a new campaign to try and persuade the Chinese to find modern or more environmentally friendly alternatives.
“We are raising funds to help the Seahorse Trust expand a successful British seahorse survey across the globe to gather data vital to this cause,” said Graham.
“We are also urging any local dive clubs or people holidaying and diving in exotic locations to report any encounters with seahorses, using the special form on our website.”
The Centre will also soon be displaying a letter of appeal to the Chinese president Hu Jintao, urging China to abandon the use of seahorses in traditional medicines for the benefit of all mankind.
“We are getting the letter translated into Mandarin, but before it goes we want as many signatures of support as possible.
“Books will be available on site for visitors to sign, and we also plan to collect online from across the world…including, hopefully, from ordinary people in China.”
Graham and his colleagues are confident Sea Life centre visitors will be enthusiastic in their support.
“They are invariably enchanted when they meet the seahorses in our displays and will be appalled when they learn just how precarious their survival in the wild now is,” he said.
There are around 40 species of seahorse worldwide.
Famed for the fact that it is the males that give birth they also capture the imagination because of their equine features, independently swiveling eyes and the fact that most pair for life.
Two species, the spiny and the short-snouted seahorse, live and breed in several locations around the coasts of Britain and Ireland.