Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Y a Comme Anguille Sous Roche...

Hello Folks!

Someone told me the other day: "Hey Sam! you are well overdue for a new post!!"

Been trying to write about a most unusual vet patient since a few weeks now...but you know how it goes...End of Year festivities...New Year etc..I've got all the damn excuses! Lool!

Someone came for an appointment for his dog and when I was done, he went back to his car and brought a bucket back. I was like: "Hmmm interesting, what is he gonna pull out of this bucket"...in my 18 yrs of career, I've seen so many people bring dogs and cats in all sorts pf "containers" that I would not have been surprised if he pulled out a fluffy little critter from there...Well! Apparently, life has still more in store for me! He pulled a nearly 2 meter long,slimey and wriggling freshwater eel from it!

Wow!That was something seeing him handle that snake-like fish...but Hey! Like a pro, I pulled my "been-there-done-that" face and told him what a cute pet this was! Lool.

So, I learnt that its a she and she is having a huge bump growing around her vent. Now that was something else!Palpated a soft and visibly swollen abdomen but otherwise everything seemed ok.

Mr Louis (owner) has this eel for...18 yrs now! Bought her a few cms long from some kiddo...and since then strongly bonded with her.

So what do you do when faced with that...Dr "been-there-done-that"??Huh? Well you thank yourself for spending your childhood playing in dirty streams and "canals" of Port Louis!I've fished these enough to be interested in our Mauritian eels later in life and curiosity (and a hint of nerdiness maybe)drove me to look up for more info at the Natural History Museum library. Yeah am that old...there was no Internet in my days!! Lool.

So you would be surprised to know that we have 3 species of eels in our river: Anguilla bicolor; Anguilla marmorata and Anguilla mossambica...and A.marmorata can grow into gigantic monsters. We used to find really big nasty ones in the tiniest streams! Scared the shit out of us!

What is so interesting about eels that got me looking up for more? They are unique in their life cycles! Heard about Salmons living in the sea and swimming up into rivers to lay their eggs and die? Well...eels do the same thing but in reverse!
They live their adult lives in rivers and swim back to the open sea when its time to breed...and die there!The brainy term for that life cycle is: "Catadromous" (as opposed to Anadromous for the salmons).As soon as the eel hits sea water, some drastic changes operate in its digestive system and it stops eating...the only thing that matters is swim, swim, swim (in fact the existing sea currents helps a lot and its mostly drift, drift, drift!)...to that secret place where they finally lay their eggs...and die!
If, for the European and American eels, the spawning location has been identified (Sargasso sea in the Carribeans)...nothing is known for the Asiatic and African eels. They lay eggs out there somewhere in a secret location (suspected to be on the East coast of Africa)and their tiny babies come back to their original rivers to grow into big MFing eels!How cool and amazing is that?!Shrouded in mystery...huh!?!
What to tell Mr Louis, who was nervously stroking the belly of missy Anguilla,convinced that she feels better after that? I told him a little bit about eel life cycles and said I would come to his place to discuss what to do...knowing that the rational thing to do was to release that eel back into a stream.
Went there, saw all the fancy ponds in his yard, aquariums in his house and all the love this eel was surrounded with...so we talked...and he could not let go of his pet.

Reality check...if she goes into the river, she dies on her way to the sea (if ever she makes it with all the pollution and obstructions in our rivers)...if she stays with Mr Louis, she might die because her biological clock is ticking towards the end...but at least she dies surrounded by caring people and in a familiar environment.

So we choose to let her where she is; Mr Louis is briefed to let me know if swelling gets bigger and uncomfortable...I will then go play fish gynaecologist and try express the eggs out.

Life has its own ways of solving such issues...I have faith!