EELS IN THE CLASSROOM 2017
In March 2017 the South East Wales Rivers Trust met with Richard Cook the owner of Severn and Wye Smokery at Westbury on Severn to ask if he could help us in running an Eels in the Classroom project. We were unable to run the Salmon in the Classroom project this year so the Trust approached the Smokery to see if it could supply us with the Eels. The Smokery offered us the equipment as well so we jumped at the chance to continue to work with the education sector. The Eels were supplied courtesy of Glass eels UK.
Tony Rees and myself visited the Smokery in March and were given a full briefing on how to keep the eels and their lifecycle.
On May 22nd we met Ceri Thomas in Brynmawr who had bought the elvers and all the associated equipment. We then went to the first school, which was Blaen-y-Cwm Primary School in Brynmawr where Ceri showed us how to assemble the equipment and put the elvers in the tank. The Trust personnel (Tony Rees and John Coombs) then installed the tanks and elvers at St Mary's School Brynmawr under the supervision of Ceri, she then left us and Tony and I carried on and installed the tanks and elvers in the following sites. Willow Town Primary School Ebbw Vale, Radyr Primary School Radyr Cardiff, Y Bont Primary School Cowbridge, Welsh Water Education Centre Cilfyndd, Taf Bargoed Millennium Centre Trelewis and the Bothy Cyfarthfa Park Merthyr Tydfil.
Since the installation of the tanks in the various locations, we have visited on an ad hoc basis just to make sure everything has been progressing well. This project has been surprisingly easy for the schools and education centres to run, the elvers have progressed extremely well and the children have taken great delight in looking after these fascinating creatures. Below is a picture of one of the tanks set up and the black round object on the right is an elver hammock (the elvers loved it)
A simple system and the elvers were happy with a water temperature of 20°C, the children fed the elvers twice a day with a small pinch of food.
During the last 2 weeks all of the schools have released their elvers back into the waterways around South Wales. The schools in Brynmawr and Ebbw Vale released the elvers at a safe site on the River Ebbw Fach at Cwm. Radyr School released their elvers at Radyr Weir on the River Taff in Cardiff, The Elvers in the Education Centre at Cilfyndd released them into the River Taff just behind the Education Centre. The elvers in the Millennium Centre will be released into the River Taf Bargoed at Trelewis and the elvers in the Bont will be released into Cyfarthfa Park Lake next week. Y Bont School in Cowbridge released their elvers into the River Thaw just behind the school in Cowbridge. This work with Y Bont Faen is coinciding with major Project on the River Thaw for improving the habitat in it to sustain a greater eel population. This project has been funded by RWE Power at Aberthaw as part of its environment brief.
An elver that has been released into the river, it looks for a stone to hide under until it feels comfortable to move.
Eels are a species that very little is known about and in recent years (10) have suffered a major decline. It is not really known why as the life cycle has not had the benefit of a major study like other species. This is probably due in part to the difficulty in tracing their movements as they travel from the rivers of Britain and Europe to the Saragossa Sea to breed. We do know that they were affected by a disease.
Eels they also have a mystique of their own in that they are either revered or loathed by anglers. The general public due to their snake like appearance also tend to be wary. However, what we found in this project was that apprehension turned to love as those taken part suddenly took a liking to their antics in the aquarium such as climbing up the sides of the glass and their Houdini like performance in the hammock.
This letter was received from the children in year 4 at Y Bont Faen Primary:
Y Bont Faen Primary
Vale of Glamorgan
Dear Tony and John
Thank you for giving us the opportunity to look after the elvers from the Sargasso Sea.
We have loved and really enjoyed looking after the eels and were very sad to let them into the River Thaw. We gave the eels some names because we loved them so much, such as Fred, Phil and Jeff. Eddie and Meg T really enjoyed feeding the eels and had so much satisfaction just by looking at them even though everyone who would go past them would stop and look at them. Today (Thursday 20th July) we released them. Even though it was really sad we all enjoyed getting them into the net and putting them in the river 2 at a time.
Thank you once again for giving us the opportunity of having the eels. We will miss the eels very much and hope that they survive in the River Thaw and eventually get back to the Sargasso Sea
From Year 4