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Tuesday, 4 February, 2003, 02:01 GMT
Family spared eviction of pet eel
Bathtub
Aalfred is dumped in a bucket at family bath time
Aalfred the eel, who has been a German family's pet since 1969, can stay living in their bathtub after a threat of eviction was lifted.

He can stay as long as he gets a piece of pipe to sleep in, authorities in the city of Bochum ruled on Monday.

Aalfred (Aal means eel in German) became a media phenomenon after newspapers reported his stay with the Richter family.

But animal rights activists had complained that Aalfred should be returned to the wild.

Paul Richter caught the eel 33 years ago from a nearby canal.

This was the only reasonable outcome

Pet owner Paul Richter
Aalfred was destined for the pot, but the Richter children refused to allow him to be eaten for supper.

Aalfred was put in the tub and became a part of the family.

He is removed to a bucket when someone needs a bath.

The rights activists complained Aalfred was being held unnaturally and asked authorities to release him into the wild.

Maggot diet

However, a veterinarian sent on a surprise visit to examine the 90cm (36 inch) eel found him well-nourished and apparently happy, said city spokeswoman Barbara Gottschlich.

Aalfred has been fed on a diet of mosquito larvae and maggots.

"He's a bit more lightly coloured than a wild eel, but otherwise he is fine," Ms Gottschlich said.

Bochum told the Richters they could keep Aalfred if they gave him an arm-length pipe to allow him to rest more comfortably.

"This was the only reasonable outcome," Paul Richter said.

"In any case, we would have protected Aalfred."

A European eel can be a pet for life - the longest recorded lifespan is 88 years.

See also:

13 Oct 01 | From Our Own Correspondent
10 May 01 | Scotland
21 Feb 01 | Science/Nature
17 Oct 02 | Europe
21 Jan 00 | UK
15 Jan 03 | England
02 Oct 02 | UK
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