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Saving the seahorse from the pet shop and Viagra

Nights spell danger for the tiny seahorse, the colorful but naive denizen of the Philippines' coral reefs.
PTI | By Agence France-Presse, Handumon (philippines)
PUBLISHED ON JAN 19, 2005 12:19 PM IST

Nights spell danger for the tiny seahorse, the colorful but naive denizen of the Philippines' coral reefs.

Here on the southern edge of Danajon Bank, fishermen dragging tiny boats lit with gas-fed lamps wade through the mangrove-shrouded coast into the shallows hunting for the exotic fish whose camouflage is easily exposed by the light.

The lantern boats are the basic infrastructure of a multi-billion-dollar global trade in seahorses, which end up in curio shops or aquariums across Europe and North America.

But most are dried and powdered as an organic Viagra or impotence cure for the booming traditional Chinese medicine market.

While humans do not eat seahorse, its gradual disappearance has mirrored the degradation of the Danajon Bank, the only double-barrier coral reef in Southeast Asia and a key sanctuary of the species.

"Seahorses are indicator species," said Allen Mondido of Project Seahorse, an international marine conservation campaign that has adopted the uniquely-shaped fish, genus Hippocampus, as its "flagship species".

"Their habitats are mangroves, coral reefs and kelp forests. When the population of the species exhibits a sharp drop, it means the resource has been degraded," the 31-year-old Mondido told AFP during a visit to the group's field office on the tiny island of Jandayan in the central Philippines.

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