Friday 22 March 2019

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Cork Independent

Lifestyle & Leisure

Just horsing around!

Wednesday, 20th February, 2019 5:02pm

It's not all cheetahs, giraffes and zebras at Fota Wildlife Park, visitors can take a trip under the sea thanks to the Tropical House.

12 pot-bellied seahorses are now calling the Tropical House home after arriving there from Spain in January. Made up of seven males and five females, and this is the first time seahorses have lived at Fota Wildlife Park.

Animal Care Manager, Miguel Bueno said: “We are delighted to be able to exhibit seahorses for the first time at Fota Wildlife Park. Seahorses are hugely popular with the public as these animals are so unique and unusual and their distinctive characteristics totally set them apart from other fish.

“However, it’s because of this that they are currently under threat as the curio trade takes approximately one million seahorses from the wild to sell as souvenirs. The traditional Asian medical trade also takes in excess of 150 million yearly from the wild for use in all types of remedies."

There could also be love in the air as seahorses pair for life, with Miguel saying: “These 12 seahorses are very young – only one year old, so they as yet have to reach sexual maturity. We hope to breed these pot-bellied seahorses once they do reach adulthood. We have created a seaweed habitat in an aquarium specially designed for their needs which is set at a temperature of 17°C. Even though there are 12 of them, their camouflage is so effective our visitors will need to allow some time to spot them.”

The pot-bellied seahorse lives in a range of habitats from shallow areas of seagrass to deeper sponge gardens. It is found in both Australia and New Zealand. They feed on a variety of small crustaceans that are mainly found around their seaweed habitats. They use their snout to be able to take in food and to swallow it in one piece. They can’t consume food that is larger than their snout.

The tropical house at Fota Wildlife Park was opened in June 2014 and is home to reptiles, amphibians, butterflies, exotic fish and a state-of-the-art veterinary facility which allows for injured or sick animals to be treated onsite.

In sadder news, Fota Wildlife Park has also announced the passing of its oldest male rothschild’s giraffe, Wally, aged 18, who died suddenly on 12 February. He was part of the Fota herd for eight years and is survived by four female offspring and was greatly loved by the park rangers and the public.

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