You may have been under the impression that, where freshwater fish are concerned, the one you would least like to encounter would be the Piranha, famous flesh-eater from the Amazon river, but you might need to think again. Recently, another kind of fish, so savage that it makes the terrifying t piranha seem tame, was recently caught in an English river, for the first time ever, setting off alarm bells.
Commonly found in South-east Asian waters, this vicious predator fish, called the giant snakehead, is repotedly completely unfussy when it comes to food, with a shark-like attitude to eating any and everything it encounters, even to humans, if the rumors are to be believed, which say that people have died from getting too close to these fish in the water.
A wide mouth, full of flesh-tearing, fearsome teeth is the first thing you notice about this monster, which can grow to three feet in length, weighing up to fifty pounds, though the one caught in the UK was smaller. These amazing fish can also survive for up to four days out of water, because in normal habitats they may need to “crawl” between available pools.
Snakeheads are thought, perhaps justifiably, to be the ultimate in invasive species, rapidly going through all other wildlife in the river, so if breeding were to start in any UK river, the results would be catastrophic, which is why this danger fish is among those species that cannot be imported. The one caught had almost certainly been ex-aquarium, illegally released. Do not, for one second think that the case is being over-stated here. Your everyday fish is nothing like the snakehead, females having attacked, and sometimes killed humans that came too close to the juvenile fish the females were guarding.
An infestation of these horrors, near any bodies of water in close proximity, is dreadful environmentally, because their ability to travel overland means that they will completely empty on pool of prey fish, then move on.
An unexpected invasion of snakeheads in the USA was combated with real zeal, even to the extent that sharpshooters were positioned round affected pools, shooting the fish dead on catching sight of them. Lakes had to be poisoned, at the cost of killing many other fish, just to prevent the spread of snakeheads, in the process, though wether or not they were wiped out remains debatable.
The only bright spot, and possible cause for optimism here is that the fresh water habitats of the UK and USA are almost certainly too cold for snakeheads, which prefer warmer waters, to survive in the long term. Remember though, what that character played by Richard Attenborough, in the film Jurassic Park, was heard to say. Life will always find a way. Take note, and be warned
All images used with permission