Police are in no hurry to interview two men who have caused an online uproar by posing with eels "mindlessly slaughtered" at Willowbank Wildlife Reserve in Christchurch.
Dozens of angry messages have been posted online since the photo of the men holding the long finned eels, which were aged between 60-70, was posted on Facebook last week.
They had been at Willowbank in Harewood for about 30 years. Long finned eels are a threatened species.
Willowbank director Kathy Rangiwananga said the eels, which were tame and hand fed, had been "mindlessly slaughtered".
The culprits for the killing of the eels would have had to climb over a nearly 2m fence to get to the eel enclosure.
The photo of the two men was taken inside the Willowbank complex, and shows the two men holding the dead eels on the end of spears.
Ms Rangiwananga found the names of the two also on Facebook and released them with the photo publicly, and also provided the information to the police.
Two other eels were killed about two weeks ago and the wildlife had been investigating installing surveillance cameras.
Senior Constable Geoff Houston told The Star yesterday he had traced one of the men, but would not interview him until next week.
"This is not a high priority at the moment," he said.
But he said the killing of the eels was "hideous" and an act of "madness".
Senior Constable Houston said he was disappointed Willowbank had publicly released the photo of the young men, and also their names, before police had a chance to interview them.
Ms Rangiwananga defended publicly releasing the photo and names of the two men she believes are holding the spears.
''They (two men) were the ones who named themselves on Facebook. We released this information to the public because we hoped that it would discourage other like-minded individuals from undertaking similar actions," she said.
"It is not acceptable to go eeling inside a wildlife reserve. I didn't think people could be so heartless. It was foolish what they did. We don't know if these two are responsible for the rest of the eels going missing, they could have come into the park every night for the last week. We don't know," she said.
Ms Rangiwananga said while an apology won't bring back the eels, it would be nice.
"I do not want these two let off lightly. They need to be dealt with by the court. An apology would be nice. This is a big deal for us," she said.