Wednesday, May 7, 2008

U.N.s Endangered Marine Species

The United Nations Postal Authority issued a 12-stamp set depicting endangered marine species on March 6, 2008. The stamp set shows various types of marine life that are in danger of becoming extinct, primarily due to human causes.

As many collectors know, the United Nations Postal Authority issues stamps through three offices -- New York, Vienna, and Geneva. Each location will issue a unique set of 4 stamps, thus making the 12 different stamps being offered. All of the stamps will have the same theme and all of the subjects depicted are of similar species. Each 4-stamp set showcases a coastal mammal, a seahorse, a coral, and a whale.

Canadian artist Suzanne Duranceau designed the 12 stamps being issued. Her beautifully-rendered illustrations showcase each species in vivid coloring. Her faithful attention to detail makes each stamp a collectible piece of artistry.

The 4-stamp set issued by the New York Office is shown nearby. One of the stamps it features is the longsnout seahorse which is the subject of this entry.

The longsnout seahorse (Hippocampus reidi) is commonly found in shallow parts of the Caribbean. They exist in various colors, usually in variations of reds and yellows. Frequently they have darker spots on their skin.

Seahorses are novel creatures in that they female deposits her eggs in a small pouch in the male's abdomen, where they are fertilized and incubated. The male will then give birth to the babies when they are mature enough the be expelled from the pouch.

Unfortunately, of the thousands of seahorses born to a mating pair, most will not survive to adulthood due to natural predators. It is estimated that only 1 or 2 seahorses will survive long enough to produce their own brood of children. This means that the parents are replaced by the children one for one under ideal situations.

But the situation is not always ideal ... seahorse populations are rapidly declining due to a number of factors. The aquarium trade, folk medicinal usage (more common in Asian countries), and even religious uses, have depleted the fragile population of seahorses, especially the longsnout seahorse. Even mechanical causes like boating and fishing, have disrupted the lives and territories of these seahorses, thus their placement on endangered species lists.

With this 12-stamp issue, the United Nations is trying to make the world aware of marine populations that are dwindling. The U.N. has long taken up the cause of making the public aware of endangered species -- they have issued stamps annually for the past 15 years depicting those species that might soon become extinct.

Let's hope that these beautiful stamps are the only extinction that we see during our lifetime.

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