The project of breeding and the reintroduction of sea horses into the gulf of Eilat.
Sea horses in the gulf of Eilat are in danger of extinction.
Sea horses belong to the Hippocampus family characterized by a hard body and a long mouth similar to an oboe. Their name was given to them as their heads looks similar to that of a horse, but here the similarity ends.

In comparison to the power and speed of a horse, the sea horse is a weak creature and the slowest swimmer in the sea. Only by camouflage can it cope with the dangers that surround it. The camouflage of the sea horse is nearly perfect and even the sharpest eyes amongst the predators have difficulty spotting and hunting it. The sea horse lives in the depths of rich marine vegetation that surround the coral reefs. (This vegetation is disappearing, and with it, the sea horses.) With its tail it holds onto the vegetation and feeds on plankton.

The most interesting thing about the sea horse is its breeding process. The male has an external brood pouch on its stomach and after a long period of courtship he swims with great show and expands his brood pouch. The female injects her eggs with a laying tube into the pouch and the process of fertilization takes place, he is pregnant!!!

At the end of a fortnight the male spawns 100-400 young sea horses. For the first few days the young sea horses spend their time on the surface of the water, while they are delicate and weak. During the first few months of their lives they are carried by the ocean currents without the ability to sink to the sea floor and camouflage themselves. During this stage of their lives, most fall prey to predators.

We at the underwater marine observatory are aware of their vulnerability at this early stage and because sea horses are in danger of extinction in the gulf of Eilat, we decided on a breeding project to grow young sea horses in a separate aquarium until they are old and strong enough to drop to the marine vegetation. We therefore increase their chances of survival.
Sea horses only feed on live food of tiny shrimp called Artemia. These are rich in protein and fats. The work of feeding them is delicate and complex and divers feed the sea horses about five times a day. On a diet of rich food and in special containers we have succeeded in breeding sea horses to an age when they can drop to the sea floor to find their food.

At this age we also add marine vegetation so they can adjust their colour to that of the vegetation, so that on release they will immediately be able to acclimatize to the natural marine environment.
To release the sea horses, a team of divers from the Underwater Marine Observatory, take jars containing tens of sea horses onto the coral reef reserve in Eilat and at a depth of about 20 meters the team search out thick marine vegetation and they release the sea horses into the open sea.
The project of breeding and reintroduction of sea turtles
Sea turtles are in danger of extinction in the Red Sea and in the entire world. They are reptiles with lungs and need to surface in order to breathe. Turtles are often trapped in fishing nets and so cannot surface to breathe and then drown. The main reason for their demise is plastic bags. The Hawksbill Turtle is the most common in the Red Sea and feeds mainly on sponges and mollusks. Jelly fish are part of its diet. Plastic bags that drift in the sea look like jelly fish to the turtles and they eat them and choke. Some swallow the bag that then swells in the stomach and gives them a feeling of satiation. The turtles then die of starvation on a “full stomach” of bags.
In light of these facts, the Underwater Marine Observatory has began a project of breeding and then reintroducing them back into nature.

In the spring our male called “Breeder” fertilizes the female and two months later the female exits onto a sand island in the center of the pool which is used as an area for egg laying. There they dig a hole with their back limbs and lay between 30 to 80 eggs in it. After laying the eggs, the female covers the hole with sand and returns to the sea. The sand and the sun are a natural incubator for the eggs. In a few weeks (about two months) the eggs hatch and little turtles the size of matchboxes and weighing only 15 grams emerge. At this stage, nearly all living creatures can eat them. In nature they run towards the foam of the waves and are preyed upon by birds, crabs and larger fish. Only one in a thousand will grow to adulthood in nature.
At the Underwater Marine Observatory we collect the turtles when they hatch and grow them in pools “out of sight”.

Every turtle gets three meals a day (fed using tweezers) and regular measuring and weighing. We grow them like this for about a year and then move them to a “crèche” pool (adjacent to the adult’s pool) and then at the age of two to the “kindergarten” in the turtle pool.
At the age of three, when and their shells are solid and they are strong enough, we release them into the open sea in the Red Sea Gulf and their chances of survival in nature is fair.
The Underwater Marine Observatory in Eilat is the first place in the world where this species has been bred successfully in captivity. This success stems from the knowledge of the environmental conditions and the implication of this in all stages of the breeding of these turtles.

Sea turtles are endangered in the Red Sea and worldwide.
Sea Turtles are reptiles with lungs breathe and they should rise to the surface. Turtles caught in the meshes fishermen can not get to breathe and drown. Another reason and a major extinction is plastic bags. Horny kind of sea turtles, the most common in the Red Sea, feed primarily on mollusks and sponges. Jellyfish are included in this menu. Plastic bags drifting sea turtles look like jellyfish, they eat them and choke. Some swallow the bag which inflates them in the stomach and makes them feel satisfied and so the turtles are dying of hunger on a “full stomach” bags.

In light of these data, from the Underwater Observatory Marine Park Project breeding turtles and returning to nature.
Our male spring “Zechariah” violates the females and after two months they are on the sandy island in the center of the pool and serves as a surface imposing eggs where they dig a pit with their hind limbs and lay into him about 30 to 80 eggs. At the end of spawning females cover the puppeteer in the sand and return to water. Sand and sun are the ones that actually perform the incubation process as a natural incubator. Within a few weeks (about two months) eggs will hatch and baby turtles out of which the size of a matchbox, and weigh about 15 grams. Almost all animals can eat them at this stage, they will run wild and eaten by the waves foaming by birds, crabs and larger fish. Just one of the turtles came of age in the wild!

Here, the Underwater Observatory Park, once we collect the hatching baby turtles and grown in the ponds behind the scenes.
Each turtle gets three meals a day (the food given to them with tweezers) in addition to food turtles receive intensive treatment of measuring and weighing. So we brought them up to the age of one year and then transfer them to the “nursery” (pool adjacent to pool the adult turtles) and at two years to “kindergarten” turtle pool.
And at age 3 when they are already strong and solid armor and have a chance to survive in nature we release them into the open sea in the Gulf Sea.
Underwater Observatory Marine Park Eilat is one in the world which managed to breed this species in captivity. Success comes from learning and implementing environmental conditions at all stages of reproduction of these turtles.

For more than 20 years the Underwater Observatory Marine Park in Eilat has invested time and money in marine research in order to improve and expand knowledge towards the treatment of marine animals and assist in rehabilitating damaged aquatic areas as a result of pollution and storms.
This is reflected in the breeding programs we have conducted with several marine animals native to this region, nurturing them to adult stage, then releasing them back to sea and continuing to track and observe their survival in their natural habitat.
These projects were a great success and led to cooperation with many researchers from both Israel and abroad.
Therefore, it is only natural that we look for better solutions to rehabilitate damaged coral reefs, damaged by pollution, storms, marine vessels and divers.
The obvious solution is to try and save the damaged colonies of coral, rehabilitate them and return them to their place at sea or to establish additional coral reefs combined with artificial ones.
Hence we started to rehabilitate fragments of broken coral, collected from the sandy sea bed, at the foot of natural coral reefs.
These fragments can be found in large quantities at the 50 meters section along the length of the coral reefs, where it is possible to collect between 100-500 coral fragments of all species, on a daily basis.
The vulnerability of corals are not only a result of the above mentioned activities, many fish also harm and break coral throughout the day and night.
The beauty is that a single piece of broken coral, even if it is less than 1 cm in length, can be grown in a relatively short time to a unique and colorful coral colony. This coral can then be transplanted to the artificial reefs, allowing a perfect breeding house for other sea specimens, at a highly successful percentage rate.
The establishment of coral reefs from fragments is unique and, was primarily developed by researchers at the Underwater Observatory in Eilat. After seven years of construction, rehabilitation of Eilat’s coral reef in this way, has proved to be the best global method in the rehabilitation of the coral reef.

What are Corals?
Corals are non- mobile animals. They live together in colonies made up of hundreds of thousands of individuals.
Each individual colony is called a polyp, each with venomous hunting tentacles which feedi trapped prey to their mouths. The growth rate of coral colonies is several centimeters per year.
A colony of just tens of centimeters might be decades or even centuries old.
When a coral colony dies, a chalky skeleton remains that provides a basis for growing new coral colonies. This process has been going on for aeons, where by new colonies form and establish themselves on the dead chalky skeletons of their predecessors. We understand that apart from those corals we have saved, the solution needs to be far more extensive and shared by as many as possible.
So we, the Underwater Observatory Marine Park, decided in cooperation with the diving association, Keren Karev Fund, the Nature Reserve & National Parks Authority and with the help of Zvika Livnat, to share with and involve the schoolchildren in Eilat in this coral rehabilitation project. Thus, we not only save these corals but also have created widespread awareness concerning marine projects.
In the first year of the coral restoration project, we worked with two grade 6 classes from “Arava” primary school in Eilat. Every two weeks the children visited the Observatory and each class had an aquarium with damaged coral fragments collected from the seabed.
The schoolchildren treated, weighed, cleaned and monitored the coral’s growth rate and recovery.
At the end of the year, the team of Underwater Observatory Marine Park divers, with the help of the students, “planted” the corals on the coral reef, which is located in close proximity to the Observatory Tower’s windows.
The coral is planted by using a special glue, developed here at the Observatory. Students are able to track development of the restored coral for years by means of an identity number they receive. Anyone wishing to view the coral and rehabilitation process are invited to view the coral through the Tower windows (after the coral has been returned to its natural habitat) or alternatively in an aquarium display in the classroom, where the corals are still in the process of rehabilitation.
While working with the coral, children learn how delicate and how slow its growth rate actually is.
They learn to identify different species of coral and learn about the special needs that corals require in order to live and grow.
From a piece of coral that each child manages to rehabilitate, we educate about the complex situation of the reef in Eilat , the factors that interfere with the reef and how, by joining forces, we can improve and save the reef in Eilat.
This project has been ongoing for 13 years and currently we work with five schools in Eilat. Our ambition is to eventually work with all schools in the city.
The children participating in this project are from the fifth and sixth grades.
The involvement of these children who treat and rehabilitate the corals, raises awareness of our marine developments and perhaps, in a few more years, we can restore the coral reef in Eilat to it’s previous splendor.