Project giving pupils an insight into eels

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Pupils at five South Yorkshire schools are getting excited about eels – raising babies in their classrooms before releasing them back into the wild.

The project is taking place in the Dearne Valley, where youngsters are keeping the elvers in tanks for four weeks, learning all about their life cycle.

When the little eels have grown, each child will personally release about 100 elvers into nearby wetlands where they could live for up to 40 years – before returning to the Sargasso Sea near the Caribbean to spawn.

Nationally, 55 schools are involved in the initiative, but the Dearne schools are the most northerly.

Once common in South Yorkshire’s rivers, eels have suffered a huge decline in recent years due to industry and pollution.

Numbers are improving steadily. However, the number of man-made structures, such as weirs, is undoubtedly making the journey up river harder for young eels when they return from the sea.

Works to improve eel populations have benefits for other fish and wildlife such as bittern and otter, which rely heavily on them as a food source.