In a swimming pool on a rural Waipawa property, shaded by a tarpaulin, more than 100 eels swim in lazy circles.
These are the lucky ones, rescued from a swamp that is now dry land after weeks without any substantial rain.
While mass deaths of eels are being reported in Hawke's Bay due to the dry conditions, a teenage couple in Waipawa have spent days digging through a dried-up swamp on the aptly-named Swamp Rd, sorting the few live eels from the hundreds of dead ones, and hauling them in buckets to the refuge of the swimming pool.
Zac Russell and his girlfriend Grace Olsen have been putting in full days digging for the eels and at first ferrying them home in buckets to an old bathtub.
"We knew there were eels in the swamp because we released some in there about 10 years ago and they have multiplied since then," Zac says.
"We nearly lost them all in a drought about six years ago so we were worried about them as this summer got drier and drier.
"We weren't keen on losing them again, and when we started looking we found a lot of dead ones. It looked bad, then we found some small eels still alive, then more ... "
Before long the bathtub was full and the swimming pool was pressed into service.
The rescued eels range in size from pencil-sized to a metre long. Zac and Grace have found both longfin eels and short finned.
"We found one blind eel we have named Scarface, although his scar is actually on his tail. We thought he was dead but he twitched so we put him into water and he revived. So far he's the only one we've named," Zac says.
"A lot of the ones we've saved were close to death. The aim is to keep them safe until their habitat is restored, then put them back again. It won't be straight away though as the number of dead eels in the swamp will mean it's going to be polluted initially."
In the meantime the eels will stay in the pool, with plastic barrels to swim through, food delivered and their tarpaulin for shade.
"They are native creatures and a New Zealand treasure, it would be a huge shame if eventually our kids and grandkids couldn't experience them as we have.
"If I was an eel I'd hope someone would do this for me."
Other eels found in dried-up Hawke's Bay waterways are being reported, with one Waipawa resident disposing of "five wheelbarrows" full of dead eels.
The Department of Conservation says its rangers went out to investigate the report in a Tukituki catchment area in Central Hawke's Bay and found 50 more eels dead in a nearby dried-up waterway.
Hawke's Bay Regional Council group manager integrated catchment management Iain Maxwell said it was upsetting to hear about the dead eels.
DoC senior community ranger Chris Wootton said, "It's difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of why water levels have dropped so low and so quickly.
"People have described how it's just like the bath plug has been pulled out and all the water has gone from these stream or river systems.
"We do know that the Waipawa River is very low right now and that river recharges the aquifer that feeds springs, such as the ones affected," he said.
DoC is unsure what other waterways may be impacted and is asking the public for help. The Napier DoC office can be contacted on 06 834 3111 or firstname.lastname@example.org.