Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm – Studying the Ponies of the Sea

When many people travel, they want to experience something unique to where they’re visiting. In Kona, on the west side of Hawaii Island, a three acre oceanfront seahorse farm is hidden on a dirt road just south of the Kona airport. Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm opens the doors to its unusual aquatic farm, run by biologists and marine life specialists who study the small sea creatures and hope save the unique animals from extinction.

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Visitors get to ‘hold’ an adult seahorse and see babies, pregnant males and sea dragons while learning about these pre-historic creatures that have existed on earth for 13 million years. The only one of its kind in the United States, the Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm is home to over 20,000 seahorses.

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Collecting tiny shrimp to feed the seahorses

Although seahorses have existed for millions of years, they face extinction in the next 3 decades unless action is taken to stop these delicate creatures from being taken from the ocean. It’s estimated that 64 million seahorses are extracted from their natural habitat annually to be used in Chinese medicine, or sold as souvenirs.

There are about 40 species of seahorse world wide and in all species, it’s the male of each monogamous pair that gives birth to about 600 babies after a month long gestation period. Because the seahorse is uncommon in all parts of the ocean, it makes them difficult to study. However the staff at the Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm take the time to learn about seahorses and what makes them feel comfortable enough to propagate.

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Pregnant male seahorse

Once the tiny babies are born, the are on their own. Only about one in a thousand babies survives out in the wild. However, in captivity, the survival rate is about fifty percent. The farm was founded in 1998 as a way to alleviate the pressure on the fragile wild seahorse population from the demands of home hobbyists and public aquariums.

While only one species of seahorse is currently listed as endangered, eleven species are listed as vulnerable. However, most seahorse species are classified as “data deficient,” meaning the not enough information has been collected, or the species is too rare to know enough about the wild populations.

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“Holding” a seahorse

The highlight of the farm tour is learning how to make a “corral reef” with your fingers by gently lowering them into the water and touching the tips of the fingers together. A seahorse is gently placed next to a finger where it will latch on with his or her tail and hang out for a bit before gracefully gliding away.

For more information on the Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm, visit http://www.seahorse.com