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Rare seahorses gallop back to River Thames

PUBLISHED: 11:57 17 April 2008 | UPDATED: 14:40 25 August 2010

MAJESTIC: The Hippocampus hippocampus seahorse in all its glory.

MAJESTIC: The Hippocampus hippocampus seahorse in all its glory.

SEAHORSES have chosen the Thames as their new homes and started breeding in the river

SEAHORSES have chosen the Thames as their new homes and started breeding in the river

The endangered short-snouted variety lives in various spots along the famous river and marine biologists said they are likely to breed along the banks of North Kent and south-east London.

The revelation followed an amendment to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 on Sunday, April 6 to protect the species.

Conservationists have known about the prescence of the Hippocampus hippocampus species for 18 months but only announced the news this week after the bill was passed.

Definite sightings have been identified in Tilbury, Essex, and in Dagenham.

Dr Heather Koldewey, Associate Director of Project Seahorse at London Zoo, said: "It is always exciting to discover a population of seahorses where they haven't been before. And we are delighted that they are now protected.

"It is very early days. We know very little about them and we don't know how big their colonies are. But the fact that our monitoring has been restricted to certain spots suggests they could well be found in other parts of the river.

"The River Thames is gradually being re-colonised as it gets more and more healthy. In the '50s and '60s the Thames was pretty much a dead river, it was full of rubbish.

"It demonstrates that the Thames is becoming a sustainable bio-diverse habitat for aquatic life.

"We don't know too much about this variety of seahorse. We really hope that the discovery will contribute to more legislation to protect this species."

Short-snouted seahorses are normally found around the Canary Islands and Italy and experts know so little about them that their endangered category is 'data insufficient'.

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