First look at elusive West African seahorse

The elusive and adorable West African seahorse (Hippocampus algiricus) has been filmed for the very first time.

Researchers with the super fun sounding Project Seahorse both captured the footage and physically captured the seahorse off the coast of Senegal. After a good look and a little filming, the seahorse was released back into the deep, unharmed.

The vibrantly colored West African seahorse is one of two seahorse species that Senegalese fishermen catch and export. Project Seahorse estimates that Senegal exports up to 600,000 West African seahorses annually, a number that’s risen sharply in recent years. Most of these seahorses are used in traditional Chinese medicine. Nearly 20 million seahorses are caught and sold worldwide for this purpose.

“Poor visibility and general diving conditions off the coast of West Africa make field study more difficult than in other areas where seahorses are found, so no research has been done on this species, and nothing is known about its habitat, life cycle, or population status,” Project Seahorse researcher Kate West said in a statement.

Found along the Atlantic coast of central Africa, the West African seahorse is thought to be a vulnerable species but so little study has been done that the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the group keeping tabs on species numbers worldwide, lists the West African seahorse as simply “Data Deficient.” Researchers hope that bringing back pictures of this little guy will spark interest in its study and conservation.

Named for their equine appearance and famous for their role-flipping approach to parenting, seahorses are found in the warmer shallow areas of oceans around the world.

Photo and Video via Project Seahorse