As if toxic pollution were not enough to worry about, China’s rivers now face possible infestation by piranhas, with sightings and even attacks on humans apparently on the rise.
A woman in China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region was washing her dog in a local river when a shoal of three piranha suddenly appeared and began attacking her.
One of the fish bit her hand and latched on, but fortunately she managed to shake it loose and throw it to shore, suffering a bloody and badly injured hand in the process.
She had never seen such a fish before, but after looking up pictures on the Internet she soon identified it as the notorious red-bellied piranha, normally found in the Amazon but also a long-standing and now relatively staid staple of the tropical fish trade.
Hers is apparently not the only such report – in recent years reports of piranha encounters in rivers throughout certain regions of China seem to have been on the increase.
As the climate throughout much of southern China resembles that of the piranha’s native habitat, there is thought to be a considerable danger of this robust and highly fecund species becoming established, with potentially disastrous consequences for China’s already ruined ecosystems and a not inconsiderable risk to humans.
Chinese law being what it is, there are few restrictions on introducing invasive species and no realistic prospect of enforcing them, so as China’s burgeoning middle class comes to know better the joys of fickle and irresponsible pet ownership, it seems likely releases of the piranha may only the first of many new arrivals – although this being China, there will at least be an incentive to catch them.