Deadly species: Dreaded fish found
One of the most dreaded fish in the world, the red-bellied piranha, has found its way into the Godavari river in Andhra Pradesh. Piranhas are a native of fresh water rivers which flow through South American nations like Argentina, Brazil and Venezuela. Although red-bellied piranhas are not “man-eaters”, there have been many reports of attacks on humans. The fish has razor-sharp teeth and as per scientific reports, they tend to bite off flesh from humans, usually, when there is a scarcity of food in the river they live.
Piranhas were first reported near the Dowleswaram barrage in Rajahmundry last year by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Dehradun. There have been several sightings of the fish since then. The fish has also been spotted being sold in the market for consumption. Shaik Salauddin of Deccan Anglers came across the fish at a fish seed farm in Akividu, West Godavari.
He says, “After talking to the locals, we came to know that it was quite commonly found in the region and the locals call this fish ‘Roop Chand’. We also sighted the fish in the Krishna river. I found the fish being sold by a woman at a fish market in Uppal as well.” Presence of piranhas in Godavari has raised alarm among conservationists.
The study by WII says, “As it is a predatory and aggressive carnivorous fish, it may compete with native species for food and other resources, which will eventually lead to the decline or may even wipeout many native fish in the river system.”
It further says, “There is an urgent need to create awareness among the aquarium keepers, local people and the government policy makers about minimising the risks, including stopping further introduction and developing eradication programmes of this and other invasive species.”
There are also reports of a cousin of red-bellied piranha, Pygocentrus brachypomus, also known as Pacu, lurking in the Godavari river. This fish is also known as ‘ball-cutter’ as it is known to bite off testicles of people entering its territory.