Police consider charges over eel deaths

Police are seeking legal advice on appropriate charges for two men who slaughtered tame eels from the Willowbank Wildlife Reserve.

The pair caused an online uproar when they posted photographs of themselves on Facebook smiling with two eels dangling from their spears.

A threatened species, the long finned eels were aged between 60 and 70 years and had lived at the Harewood sanctuary for about 30 years.

Willowbank found the names of the two men on Facebook and publicly released them with the photo, then provided the information to police.

Senior Sergeant Pete Stills, of the Papanui police, said both men approached police after the photo appeared in news media.

"We've spoken to the alleged offenders and we're seeking further legal advice on any appropriate charges," he told The Star yesterday.

Police were treating the incident seriously.

Willowbank operations manager Dale Hedgecock said the Facebook photo showed the pair on reserve property and he wanted police to prosecute them if possible.

"It's not as cut and dried as trespassing," Mr Hedgecock said.

"It's pretty much down to what the police want to do, so we're leaving it in their capable hands."

Willowbank was grateful to the "huge amount of interest and support" received in the wake of the publicity.

Some eels were starting to return to the reserve.

"They're tame - they're not fair game," Mr Hedgecock said.

He said the reserve was proceeding with plans to install surveillance cameras to deter any further intrusions.

- By Cullen Smith of The Star

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