Eels In The Classroom

This Spring, Badocks Wood Primary in Southmead became home to 100 baby eels, known as elvers, where the children looked after them for a whole term as part of Bristol Avon Rivers Trust (BART’s) Eel in the Classroom Project.

After being caught by elver fisherman in the River Severn, the elvers were sold to UK Glass Eels in Gloucester before being collected and bought to Southmead for the children to rear them, feeding them every day and learning about all aspects of their lives.

Before the eels were brought into the schools, we had a lot of interesting and inventive guesses from the children as to what creatures would be going into the tanks set up in their classrooms. Ranging from whales to swimming chickens and self-juggling bananas, none of the children guessed that they would be looking after 100 elvers!

Once the elvers were in the tanks we had so many questions from the children, about the life cycle of the eels, where they are from and what they eat. Some of the more interesting questions included can eels talk to each other, and can eels cry? We are yet to find the answers!

The children learnt all about the fascinating life history of the eel, and the current issues they face causing them to be designated as a critically endangered species. Eels are thought to spawn in the Sargasso Sea in the North Atlantic ocean, before they float in their larval form on ocean currents towards Europe. Once they reach the freshwater estuaries around the coast, they morph into elvers and swim up into rivers where they spend up to 20 years living and feeding. Once they have grown and matured, they swim back to the Sargasso Sea where they lay their eggs.

The number of European eels which reach Europe has decreased by between 90 – 98% since the 1970’s, due to numerous factors all of which are human induced. Things like weirs, tidal gates and dams all act as barriers to migration as the eels swim up-river, and pollution, climate change, overfishing and habitat loss all have a negative impact on eel survival. Hopefully this project will inspire the children to take action for rivers in the future, not just for the survival of eels, but for the health of all wildlife which depends on the river and marine environment.

Thanks to the children and staff of Badocks Wood Primary who did a great job of looking after the elvers before they were all successfully released by the pupils into the River Trym in Badocks Wood. Make sure to keep an eye out for our slippery friends next time you are walking by the river!