When it comes to becoming friends with animals, there is usually a common thread of characteristics for people’s most beloved creatures. The animals are furry and playful like dogs, affectionate like (some) cats, and can usually be cuddled and cradled in our arms. Every once in a while, though, you’ll find people who will break this mould. In the town of Christchurch Central, New Zealand, for instance, there is a group of individuals who work in the tourism industry and are doing everything they can to protect the precious eels in their local vicinity, particularly a friendly eel that they have named Doris.

The eels take up residence in the Avon River, an area that is close to Antigua Boatshed, a popular tourism spot in NZ. Despite the fact that fishing is illegal in most of the river, eels are actually not protected under the legislation. According to the operations manager of the boating tourism company, Punting on the Avon, says that their eel population has been suffering from all of the fishing. Operations manager, Jamie Storie, says that he is worried that the good weather of Autumn means that the trespassing and illegal activity will start up once again.

Storie and his group aren’t just dealing with this matter lying down, though. They have approached the Christchurch City Council to discuss extending the fishing ban to include eels. While they care about the wellbeing of all the eels in the river, they are particularly concerned for their friend, Doris. Doris is a longfin eel, an at-risk species found only in New Zealand.

According to Storie, Doris is a popular little fish, not only visited by the tourism groups, but by local tourists and locals.

Eel 1

In an interview with Stuff, Storie even shared that one child comes down to visit Doris “almost every weekend.” 

Eel 2

 

 

Tangata tiaki (guardian of fishing rights) Te Marino Lenihan, said that the eels, known as “tuna” to Maori (the indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand) were a signature food to the native group. However, he did condemn the act of killing the eels for fun and called it disrespectful. While EOS Ecology, a group of aquatic research consultants, have recently made a protective habitat for the eels in the river, and The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) reduced the yearly commercial catch quota of longfin eel from 43 tonnes to one tonne, Storie and his group will be most content when the fishing ban is extended to include their beloved friends.

Their unwavering devotion to the eels and their wellbeing just goes to show that even if an animal is not conventionally “cute” or cuddly, they are still very much worthy of love and protection, an ideology that all of us should consider adopting ourselves when thinking about wildlife. While Storie’s group waits for the decision to pass, they will continue visiting their unconventional pals at the river, every day.

All image source: David Walker/Fairfax NZ