Hippocampus camelopardalis 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Actinopterygii Syngnathiformes Syngnathidae

Scientific Name: Hippocampus camelopardalis Bianconi, 1854
Common Name(s):
English Giraffe Seahorse
French Cheval de mer, Hippocampe
Hippocampus subcoronatus Günther,1867
Taxonomic Source(s): Lourie, S.A., Pollom, R.A. and Foster, S.J. 2016. A global revision of the seahorses Hippocampus Rafinesque 1810 (Actinopterygii: Syngnathiformes): Taxonomy and biogeography with recommendations for future research. Zootaxa 4146(1): 1-66.
Taxonomic Notes: References to H. whitei off the east coast of Africa should be H. camelopardalis. Genetic data indicate that this species is distinct from H. whitei in Australia (S. Casey in litt. to Lourie et al. 1999).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Data Deficient ver 3.1
Year Published: 2017
Date Assessed: 2016-08-17
Assessor(s): Pollom, R.
Reviewer(s): Ralph, G.
Hippocampus camelopardalis is a coastal seahorse that inhabits estuaries, seagrasses, and reefs. There are no published data about population trends or total numbers of mature animals for this species, and little is known about the relative importance of their various habitats. The species is known to be targeted and caught as bycatch to be traded for curios, aquarium use, and traditional medicines, and some fishers have reported declines, but levels of offtake are unknown. Further research and monitoring is needed in order to determine population size and trends, harvest levels, and how coral and seagrass habitat declines are affecting the species. Therefore Hippocampus camelopardalis is listed as Data Deficient.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Hippocampus camelopardalis inhabits waters off the south and east coasts of Africa from False Bay, South Africa to Zanzibar, Tanzania (Lourie et al. 1999), and possibly further north to Mombasa, Kenya (McPherson and Vincent 2004). The species may also occur in Mauritius (Fricke 1999), although that specimen may have been purchased in South Africa (GBIF 2016). A recent record from the Gulf of Kachchh in India needs to be investigated to determine whether that specimen is from an established subpopulation or if it was a vagrant carried there by ocean currents (Subburuman et al. 2014, Lourie 2016).
Countries occurrence:
Mozambique; South Africa (Eastern Cape Province, KwaZulu-Natal, Western Cape); Tanzania, United Republic of
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Atlantic – southeast; Indian Ocean – western
Additional data:
Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO):Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO):UnknownEstimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2:
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO):UnknownExtreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO):Unknown
Continuing decline in number of locations:Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in the number of locations:Unknown
Lower depth limit (metres):45
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:To date there have been no dedicated surveys or population estimates for H. camelopardalis. Fishers reported declines during interviews in 2000-2001 (J. McPherson, unpublished data). Further research is needed in order to determine population size and trends in abundance for this species.
Current Population Trend:Unknown
Additional data:
Continuing decline of mature individuals:Unknown
Extreme fluctuations:UnknownPopulation severely fragmented:Unknown
Continuing decline in subpopulations:Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations:UnknownAll individuals in one subpopulation:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:Hippocampus camelopardalis inhabits estuarine seagrass and algae beds and shallow reefs (Kuiter 2000). Little is known about its diet, but it likely consumes small crustaceans such as harpacticoid copepods, gammarid shrimps, and mysids similar to other syngnathids (Kendrick and Hyndes 2005). Seahorses are ovoviviparous, and the males carry the embryos in a brood pouch prior to giving live birth (Foster and Vincent 2004). 
Seahorses in general may be particularly susceptible to decline. All members of the genus exhibit vital parental care, and many species studied to date have high site fidelity (Perante et al. 2002, Vincent et al. 2005), highly structured social behaviour (Vincent and Sadler 1995), and relatively sparse distributions (Lourie et al. 1999).
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:Yes
Movement patterns:Unknown

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: Hippocampus camelopardalis is caught as bycatch and targeted and subsequently traded for curios, the aquarium trade, and traditional medicines (J. McPherson, unpublished data). Levels of offtake are unknown.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Hippocampus camelopardalis may be threatened due to seagrass and coral habitat loss due to coastal development, pollution, destructive fishing practices such as trawling and dynamite fishing, ocean acidification, and the effects of climate change including rising sea surface temperatures and increases in storms (Carpenter et al. 2008, Short et al. 2011, Normile 2016). The species is able to utilise other habitat types.

The Giraffe Seahorse is caught as bycatch in artisanal beach and purse seine fisheries and is retained for traditional medicines, curiosities, and aquaria in Tanzania (McPherson and Vincent 2004). A few traders interviewed during surveys conducted between 2000–2001 noticed local declines in seahorse populations over the previous 10–30 years, but most had noticed no change (McPherson and Vincent 2004). This species is also caught in low numbers in commercial trawl fisheries (McPherson and Vincent 2004), but depending on the number of vessels currently fishing in the region this may add up to a substantial amount of offtake, as has been shown in other regions (Lawson et al. 2017).

Population and habitat monitoring are needed in order to properly assess the conservation status of this species.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: The entire genus Hippocampus has been listed on Appendix II of CITES since 2004. A permit or license is required to export dried or live syngnathids.  The species likely occurs in at least one marine protected area, including Mafia Island Marine Park. Further research on this species biology, ecology, habitat, abundance and distribution is needed.

Citation: Pollom, R. 2017. Hippocampus camelopardalis. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2017: e.T10064A100939136. . Downloaded on 16 October 2018.
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