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Endangered white sea urchins have moved into sea urchin hotels built in Sydney Harbour
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Endangered white sea urchins have moved into sea urchin hotels built in Sydney Harbour

More than three hundred and fifty newly released endangered white seahorses have moved into “seashorse hotels” that have been built for them in Sydney Harbour.

The eight new ‘hotels’ are made of biodegradable metal to provide a home for endangered wild marine animals. Seahorse Hotels are installed at least a month before their residents are released to allow algae, sponges, and other marine life to grow on them. Over the years, the metal that serves as the framework for the structures crumbles, and semi-natural reefs are created, which not only benefit the sea urchins, but also the harbor’s wildlife.

Australian marine biologist Mitchell Brennan said they wanted to boost the growth of the wild stock with the released seahorses.

The project was set up with the aim of species conservation, in collaboration with the Sydney Institute of Marine Science, University of Technology Sydney and the New South Wales Government.

The white seahorse is native to the east coast of Australia, is found in a wide variety of colors in the wild, and, like a chameleon, can adapt the color of its outer shell to its environment. Due to the loss of their habitat, the marine animal was added to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species in 2017.

According to Australian researchers, the number of white sea urchins in Sydney Harbor decreased by almost half between 2008 and 2015, and the number of individuals living on the northern coast of New South Wales decreased by 95 percent.

So far, the Seahorse Hotel Project appears to be a promising initiative to reverse this trend: Researchers found that a year after a large number of individuals were released into Chowder Bay in 2020, twenty percent of the population remained in hotels and ten percent managed to breed in the wild.

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