Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Feeding the Eels at Nga Manu Nature Reserve.My Land:

Taming the Monsters.

Fishing for eels.
Growing up in New Zealand, eel fishing was part of my life, as it was for most young boys. Long, hot summer days spent trying to catch them with baited hooks, or spear fishing. Real exciting kid stuff. We kids were warriors battling the demons in the murky waters. Wasted a lot of those slimy, horrible, looking snakey things. Even ate a few of them too. I spent my early life on the Canterbury Plains in the Kirwee area, west of Christchurch. We lived 2 miles away from the wee town, and spent so much time roaming the forest plantations, farmer's fields or playing in the irrigation ditch that crossed through our property. We'd dam it, create a swimming hole and spend hours there, and pull out the odd trout or even better, an eel.

But kids grow up and as I did, a deep interest in wildlife developed also probably fostered by that early carefree, raw with nature life that was sorely missed when city living.

Eels became interesting creatures, no longer slimey monsters, but creatures in their own right- fascinating subjects to study, and where they fit in our natural environment. Sure, when my own boy was young, off he would go eel fishing as I had done. But on a holiday in the Takaka area of Nelson's Golden Bay we took our children along to see the tame eels there. I was hoping that he would also learn to appreciate them as the incredibly beautiful fish that I see them as today.

Feeding tame eels.
Recently at a our local Nga Manu Nature Reserve, I was able to step back into my childhood and take part, along with many other children and adults in feeding the eels. Every day at 2pm the public are able to observe and to feed the eels.

Enjoy the video and marvel at how these fish have perfectly evolved to the environment they live in. Long slender supple bodies for even the smallest of waterways. A perfect shape of form for function.


Some facts-
New Zealand has 3 species of eels or  Anguillidae family of fish.

Longfin eel (Anguilla dieffenbachii), found further inland  and the largest growing, sometimes more than a metre long.

Shortfin eel (A. australis), found in estauries, and rivers close to the coast.

Spotted eel (A. reinhardtii) found in some northern rivers.

All begin life in the sea then live adult lives in our rivers, lakes and streams.
Spawning of the longfin eel is up around Tonga, and the shortfins thought to be near Noumea.
Eels were once plentiful but deforestation and pollution have destroyed much of their habitat, and numbers have plummeted. Damming rivers for hydroelectric stations has also affected them. The longfin eel now thought to be critically endangered.

Respect eels.
So spare a thought for these misunderstood beautiful creatures. Sure they may awake in us our primordial fears of snakes or slimey monsters in the unseen waters, but they have a place in our environment. An important treasure, or as our Maori would call them  a Taonga. Enough species are facing extinction without our losing these. After all, they do have a strange and fascinating beauty about them, once we put aside our fears and see them for what they really are- beautiful!

You can feed tame eels at many places in New Zealand. Here's a few-

Jester House - Ruby Coast, Tasman region.

Bencarri Farm Park Takaka, Tasman region.

Nga Manu Nature Reserve  Kapiti Coast.

Mt Bruce Pukaha  Wairarapa

How about hitting the Share button, and Stumbling, Facebooking, or digging this post for us thanks? It's a good, interesting and informative post about a Nature Reserve I admire for the preservation and education work they do, and the world needs to know more about the place!



Anonymous said...

OMG....I had nooooo idea you could EAT them!!! Just looking at the pictures makes my heart jump, which is why I didn't read your other post...Snakeman!

Jim said...

Hi Wanda, smoked eel is super delicious and a nice moist texture. We have quite a large industry based upon smoking eels for domestic and export delicacy markets. It's probably this industry that may help ensure protection of the species. It's a shame it is going this way, but the future survival of our wildlife may rest with exploitation of the species. As with snakes, our negative attitudes towards eels would see no one bother to care about them and being wiped out. We have to change our attitude to all wildlife. God's creatures, the ugly as well as the beautiful.

Shelley Workinger said...

Hi Jim,
I was hopping by for the blogalicious tour and scrolled down a bit too far, I see! It's funny how your photos gave me chest pains like Wanda, but I also couldn't look away. I'm so glad you posted the pictures and article because now I find myself quite fascinated with something I used to find terrifying!

rye said...

wow! this is amazing. i never knew eels could get that big. hehehe That would probably be delicious when cooked.