Zoology Universities in Europe
Volunteers at Kingston University will be on the look-out for critically endangered European eels this summer as they take part in the Zoological Society of London's (ZSL) annual monitoring programme.
The presence of eels in rivers that feed in to the Thames has been studied by ZSL since 2005 and the data is helping conservationists understand more about what factors might be causing their numbers to decline. Eel traps are set at 16 sites across London and volunteers at Kingston will be checking the Hogsmill River trap twice a week until September to see is any of the slippery creatures have made their way in to it.
"The number of young European eels joining the adult population has crashed since the 1980s, " ZSL's Joe Pecorelli, who leads the citizen science eel monitoring programme and has been training volunteers at the University, explained. "The Thames catchment area has seen a 99 per cent drop and one of the big problems eels face is the loss of habitat due to obstacles such as weirs in rivers that block their movement upstream. This project is proving very helpful in identifying where the worst barriers are so that we can install special devices to help them pass. We are so grateful to Kingston University and all the volunteers for their help with the project."
European eels spawn in the Sargasso Sea, which is in the North Atlantic Ocean, and take approximately a year to travel east toward the estuaries of Europe. They then spend anything between 15 and 20 years maturing in the rivers before making their way back to the Sargasso Sea to lay eggs at the end of their lives. When eels are mature, they turn silvery to help camouflage themselves against predators on their long return journey and are called silver eels. Their extraordinary migratory pattern was a mystery until the early 20th century.