An animal rights group are demanding a rare seahorse thought extinct In the North Sea that was captured by a nine-year-old boy be released after he donated it to a local aquarium.
The lad caught the extremely rare short-snouted seahorse while playing with his landing net and PETA are furious it has since been locked up in a glass cage in an aquarium.
The Seahorse was thought to have died out in the North Sea after the seagrass on which it feeds was wiped out by a fungus infection. But, the seagrass slowly started to return and apparently along with it there have been a few rare sightings of the seahorse.
This one was captured off the island of Borkum in the district of Leer in the north-western German state of Lower Saxony while the schoolboy identified only by his first name Aike was out playing in the harbour.
After dunking his landing net in the water, he pulled out the rare seahorse, later identified as a short-snouted seahorse (Hippocampus hippocampus) which he took to the Nordsee (North Sea) Aquarium.
Aquarium spokesperson Marie Oetjen said: “We are very excited that the boy and his parents brought the ‘Hippocampus hippocampus’ to us here at the Nordsee Aquarium.
“We haven’t seen a seahorse like this caught alive for over 50 years.”
However, according to the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the rare seahorse was found floating on its side after just one day in captivity.
A PETA spokesperson said: “It was so badly injured that it could no longer swim straight. Presumably, it had air bubbles in its gills.”
PETA specialist Dr. Tanja Breining said: “Species protection should not be used as a justification for removing seahorses from the North Sea and locking them up in a cramped glass cage for life.
“A local fishing ban would make a lot more sense than removing the rare animals from the sea where they then miss out on reproductive partners.”
Although the seahorse received medical attention and soon felt better, PETA said they are still campaigning for its release.
The animal rights group said that they have filed a complaint with the authorities in Lower Saxony.
The short-snouted seahorse was endemic to the Mediterranean Sea and parts of the North Atlantic, particularly around Italy and the Canary Islands, however, colonies of the species were discovered in the River Thames around London and Southend-on-Sea in 2007.
Their preferred habitat is shallow muddy waters, estuaries or seagrass beds.
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