Amazon piranhas in China river attack
Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water—like a Hollywood horror movie, hungry flesh-eating South American piranhas have found their way into the Liujiang River in China.
Swimmers reported seeing several of ruby-red piranhas, also called the sharp-snouted piranha, in the river that runs through the Guangxi Zhuang region. One piranha was actually captured when it attacked a Liuzhou resident and bit right through his hand drawing blood. The same carnivorous fish also snapped the fingers of another man.
Zhang Kai Bo, 31, was giving his dog a bath in the river when he was mauled by several piranhas. One fish sank its razor-sharp teeth into his hand, but he managed to rip it off and throw it to the river bank. When his friend went to check on the piranha, it was still alive and buried its teeth into his fingers.
Zhang took the fish to local experts the same day who confirmed that it was a piranha. He then posted pictures of the piranha and his bleeding hand on Weibo.
It's the first piranha sighting and attack ever reported in China. Importing exotic animals like piranhas into China are illegal, so how the Amazon River native made its way into its new habitat is a mystery.
"They may have been released by residents who bought them from black-market traders as ornamental fish," said one government official, Zhou Quan. But he assured the public, "Residents in the city have no need to worry about the piranhas—their bites won't kill you."
Experts were quick to concur to ease public fears. They said the attacks by the piranhas on the swimmers were simply "accidents". They added that piranhas are not the fearsome predators or killer carnivores portrayed by Hollywood movies, where the fish are often showing stripping the flesh off an animal or human body within minutes of a feeding frenzy.
Zhou Quan told residents that the freshwater fish could not survive in waters colder than 15°C, so the chances of the spotted piranhas reproducing in the Liujiang River were virtually impossible. However, in recent years US fishermen have reported catching piranhas as far north as Lake Winnebago up in the cold, cold state of Wisconsin.
What has worried authorities is that no knows how many piranhas are in the river right now. They launched a massive fish-hunt last week using 10kms of netting but failed to find anything out of the ordinary. "It's not easy to catch these fish in such a deep and broad river," said Xu Xiang, an official from the water authority.
"Five boats with experienced fishermen were deployed on the river,” said Wei Yongwen, the head of the livestock and fishery bureau. He added that more than 40 fishermen from the fishing association also joined in the hunt, but also said that their hunt would only last one week, as fishing with nets is forbidden in the section of the river that runs through the city.
Liuzhou city is now offering a bounty of 1,000 yuan (RM500) for every piranha captured, causing residents to flock to the river in a fishing frenzy—and the sale of pork bait to skyrocket. "Just think, the money from two piranhas equals the monthly income of a normal worker. Who can resist?" said one 28-year-old local.
Source: China Daily/ANN
Published 16th July 2012