This is Willie. Rob, who you see in the photos, has fed and talked to Willie for twenty years at the Waiheke Eel Sanctuary.
We were keen to learn more about her, and produce a documentary on eels, so we started by measuring her. She was 1.8 metres long, which makes her 100 years old. Longfin eels grow 1-2cm every year, which is how we can be accurate with her age.
Robin arranged for a film crew and had her script ready when huge storms struck Waiheke Island, streams turned into bigger streams. Willie disappeared and hasn't been seen since the storm. We hope she has gone to the south Fiji Basin.
At the time, we estimated her to be carrying three million eggs. When eels are ready to accumulate eggs (after five years) they keep accumulating them. They know they are getting more eggs and have a better chance of survival if they can accumulate lots of eggs and get to the south Fiji Basin to let them go.
If Willie made it, after swimming non stop for five months, without food, five males would of been waiting for her. It would take two weeks to let go of her eggs and males to let out their milt. Then milt and eggs mix (fertilise) and small larvae emerge and float back to New Zealand (this takes 18 months and is a dangerous journey with bigger fish, nets, pollution etc to be encountered along the way). Isn’t she a beauty!