Requiem for a Yellow Seahorse

I remember at about the age of eight years old in Ireland, my parents took out a subscription for a weekly UK magazine entitled "Pictorial Knowledge". Every Sunday before going to mass I would wait as my father collected the magazine along with the Sunday newspapers from Keohane's newsagent in Sligo on the West Coast of Ireland.

It was a magazine full of amazing facts and spectacular global images. Little did I know then that it was the subconscious beginning of my quest for travel and adventure. The first editions cover showcased Abu Simbel in Egypt and how it had been saved from the floodwaters of the Nile in one of the most amazing and ambitious recovery operations ever undertaken in modern times. The second edition was of a Seahorse who in its noble form proudly graced the cover of the magazine, replete in its upright singularity.

Now thirty five years and fifty seven countries visited later, Abu Simbel is safe and sound; as it proudly surveys the upper Nile river while the fate of the yellow Seahorse verges to the point of extinction. So, what actually has gone wrong to rob the world of this fascinating anomaly of nature. Why are we actually allowing creatures such as the yellow seahorse to essentially become extinct?

Before getting further depressed by their imminent departure, lets learn a little bit about our Hippocampus kuda friend. They are small fish which can grow up to 15 to 30 centimeters long. They can live for between one to five years. They have a horse like head, an upright body and a tail which resembles that of a monkey. They have armored like bodies and swim vertically and can develop chameleon like tendencies which enable them to change color and protect themselves from omni present predators. Their tails wrap around  reeds for stability and anchorage  They look like Neptune's contribution to an ever evolving grand chess game of nature. In mythology, they guided Neptune's chariot and sailors would have them tattooed on each other for protection from drowning.

The reproduction habits of the Seahorse are truly unique in that the female Seahorse lay their eggs in pouches on the male's belly and the male later gives birth to live young. Preceding this process is an amazing and spectacular courtship dance where both male and female Seahorse seem to glow slightly and take on a slight color change. This photo chromic transition then attracts their partner and the performance of  life creation commences. The male will almost bend in half to display that his brood pouch is empty and available. The male lowers his head like a prancing horse and moves in a circular motion. This daily courtship dance may occur for a number of days just after dawn with both male and female Seahorses tails entwined together until the female is ready to finally donate her one hundred or more valuable eggs into the pouch on the male's abdomen. The male then releases sperm into the pouch and thus fertilizes the eggs. The incubation period lasts up to two weeks and then a beautiful flotilla of seahorses are hatched. Yellow Seahorses live and are found primarily in the tropical and coral waters of Northern Queensland; North Western Australia; The Northern Territory and parts on Indonesia.

And so, back to the current plight of our tragically endangered equestrian/aquatic friend. There are three major factors threatening its demise:

Chinese Medicine:

Chinese and other Asian countries have been using Seahorses for medicinal purposes for the last 400-500 years. The alleged curative powers extend to assisting with impotency, asthma and lowering of cholesterol levels along with enhanced virility. This medicinal impact is compounded further as it is also seen as a culinary delicacy primarily in Asian countries.


Due to their perceived mystical and visual charms they are used for paperweights, souvenirs, jewelry and even keychains.


Aquarium lovers around the world are simply enchanted by these vertical creatures; but the difficulty in keeping them healthy leads to a high mortality.

It is from the realms of a Steven Spielberg styled movie that their survival from the clutches of imminent extinction may occur for the yellow Seahorse. Between seahorse farming and an ambitious genetic research based project launched in 2004 by the Natural History Museum in London known as "The Frozen Ark" project; we may continue to be graced by their being albeit in depleted numbers.

The former project of breeding the seahorse in captivity and in sea farms may help re-stock and re balance the numbers in existence worldwide and thus at least guarantee their survival.

This amazing latter project is a modern version of Noah's Ark which is designed to save  thousands of animals from imminent extinction thanks to the benevolent destruction of mankind's actions through pollution; destruction of natural habitats and war. There are no Tsunami related catastrophes here; just our simple inability to keep mother natures creature inventory in balance. Scientists behind the project are focusing on primarily preserving the DNA of endangered animals so that valuable research can continue even when some of the animals have become extinct. The vessel of refuge for this DNA lacks the biblical like appeal of the original Noah's Ark but instead will be a range of frozen storage units in one of the museum's laboratories in West London. This entire project is not without controversy as scientists hope to be able one day to be able to use the cells from the frozen tissue samples to literally recreate extinct animals using advanced cloning techniques.

Of the potential thousands of creatures eventually being involved with this extraordinary project, it will start with the DNA samples of the following eight creatures:

The future cannot be predicted; the Darwinian challenge of the survival of the fittest is constantly under threat; more often from ourselves; the ultimate human predator. Will our yellow Seahorse's demise be, as noted in the title and last stanza of my poem below? Hopefully not. What is sure and what to me is tragically unfair is that extinction of so many of earths living forms will not be orchestrated by H G Wells like invasions from outer space but instead, by us; the most evolved (allegedly) of the galactic species. How sad and how hopeful we truly need to become if the joy of our yellow seahorse and its beautiful glowing personality is to remain with us as opposed to a creature literally from the smoldering past.

Requiem for yellow seahorse

plump pedestal proud

anchored invisibly

pendulum tidal flux

laughing with

fronds aglow

silent pouched


arched forward

in acceptance

of its Darwinian


why do you leave us?

unsure of future

or degraded by

forced ballasted exit?

a global chill or warmth

a fetch too far

my soon to be


bright little star.

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Gathering from Ecdysis 2008

Squirrels gather food
For the long
Dormant season

Why do we not
Do the same with

If we did
We would be
One full season
Of being.


2008 Bali

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©2008 John O’ by