Sea horse stud a success for students

FLIP PRIORBroome Advertiser

Not long after sunrise, endangered seahorses at Broome start slow dancing to demonstrate their attraction in a graceful courtship ritual – and up to three days later, they’re still going strong.

The Hippocampus Kuda – usually referred to by the far less glamorous “common sea horse” or “yellow spotted sea horse” – has chameleon-like qualities and also changes colour to attract its mate.

The seahorses are being bred in captivity by students at the Kimberley Training Institute as part of their studies in the Hook, Line and Thinker program run through the Broome Aquaculture Centre.

Native to Indonesia, they are a recognised endangered species heavily exploited through the Asia Pacific region for a range of uses – including being ground up for use in Chinese pharmaceuticals.

Maritime portfolio manager Jeff Cooper said the seahorses were a source of fascination for the students, who had to pair them up and made sure they were well fed and in the perfect environment to ensure healthy babies.

When the 5mm babies were born after a short gestation of 14 to 18 days, students reared them to about 12cm.

They were then distributed through the Australian aquarium trade.

“The seahorses are quite fascinating in the behaviours that they exhibit and their reproductive tendencies are quite unique, because the male is the one that carries the young,” Mr Cooper said.

“They are a great specimen to learn from.”

Mr Cooper said the students had enjoyed some successes since the breeding program started last year. He said the first batch of seahorses had been so comfortable in their new environment they started breeding immediately.

Almost as soon as the male gave birth, the female would be ready to start courting again, he said.

“The male has a quick break and then needs to get back into it,” Mr Cooper said.

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails