MORE than 50 school children paddled in the shallow waters of Luckington Brook to release the baby European eels they had been studying.

Children from Luckington Primary School took their fishy friends down to the brook on May 25 to release them with help from the British Avon Rivers Trust.

They have been learning about the eels as part of a classroom project which has been incorporated into their curriculum.

Six-year-old, Rory Snowden said: “We kept the eels in our classroom for lots of weeks in a glass tank. They were very wriggly and they climbed up the sides. I didn’t know they had teeth but they do!

“We released them in to the ford but they can’t actually swim so the current just swishes them away. It was fun because we got to the ford through squelchy mud.”

The Luckington pupils have been weighing the eels over six weeks to learn about their development and in subjects such as art, they were asked to make their own eels from different materials.

William Greening, 8, said: “I did enjoy the project and my favourite part of it was when class one were holding the eels and they tipped them out, but only some of the eels went out because some clung onto the box with their tails.”

Bristol Avon Rivers Trust organised the project so that children could learn about the critically endangered fish whose numbers have declined by as much as 95 per cent since the 1970s.

Barriers such as tidal gates and weirs, overfishing and pollution have all affected the survival of the species.

Harriet Alvis, BART Project Officer said: “It went really well and the kids loved it. Apparently they were talking about it days before it even happened! The kids all got in and they were quite excited to see them swimming away and many of them said they would come back another time to try to see them when they get bigger.”

The European eels usually travel from their birth place in the Sargasso Sea to feed and grow in Europe, but this particular group will now develop in the waters of Wiltshire.

Miss Alvis added: “People are getting out less and less and it is important to have that engagement with going outside. They won’t want to protect it if they don’t know about the world outside!”

The Bristol Avon Rivers Trust will be doing similar projects in the future, including river dipping which will allow children to search for small invertebrates in the river.