Eels 'not caught at Willowbank', say youths
Two men accused of killing eels on Willowbank Wildlife Reserve are denying the allegations, police say.
The wildlife reserve called police after they were alerted to a picture on Facebook apparently showing two men on the reserve grounds holding two dead longfin eels, believed to be about 70 years old.
Under the photo, it was written that the youths did not kill the eels to eat them but because they were "bored and looking for something to do".
Senior Sergeant Peter Stills said the men had been interviewed and police were now seeking legal advice on what charges they could face.
He said one of the men came forward after seeing the picture in the media.
The pair said they caught the eels away from the reserve, Stills said. "They told us they went into the Willowbank car park to get the photo, where there was light," he said.
Willowbank manager Dale Hedgcock said even if the men were not prosecuted the "massive public uproar" showed what they did was wrong.
"From our point of view it certainly highlighted a need to protect the eels on our property for starters and potentially in our culvert, where they say they caught the eels."
Hedgcock said the reserve was working on a joint initiative with the Styx Living Laboratory Trust to develop an eel sanctuary.
The Department of Conservation supported the idea, which was in the planning stage, he said.
Hedgcock said the sanctuary would include educational signs on the Styx River Reserve.
People needed to be aware that eel numbers had dwindled, he said.
Longfin eels are listed as a "threatened species", just like the great spotted kiwi, Hedgcock said.
The reserve was also looking at installing security cameras.