Recently, red piranha (Serrasalmus nattereri), which is originated in South America and atrocity by nature, is found spreading in Nanning, capital of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. Traders on the pet market say there is a great demand for this killing fish, but ecologists believe they would bring an ecological crisis to the local biosphere.
The Flowers and Birds Market located on Yuanhu Road is the biggest of its kind in Nanning City. Many fish shops here are selling Red Piranha, not openly, but secretly. The fishmongers put some red piranhas in the fish tank as showcase and ask the passers-by in low voices if they want one. As this special species of fish is in great demand, they charge as high as 30 yuan(US$3.6) for each, though all the red piranhas sold here are small fry of four or five centimeters long. One of the fishmongers says his fish was bought from Guanzhou and transported to Nanning by road and waterway. A booth like his can sell more than 10 fish each day. Some shops even sell out 90 red piranhas in four or five days.
Red piranha is a fish living in the Amazon River in South America. Since it is such a threatening creature, the local people referred it as “wolf in the water.” In the Amazon area, people usually throw beef to the river to draw away the “wolves in the water” before they cross the river. When a herdsman takes his herd across the river, he has to drive a weak cattle into the river first to feed the fish so as to make sure the other cattle will not be attacked. In Mato Grosso, a state of Brazil, 1,200 cattle are eaten by red piranha every year. Children playing in the river and women washing clothes by the riverside are often attacked by the fish.
Nanning Marine World welcomed its new members, red piranhas, on September 24, 2002. In the aquarium, people saw with their surprised eyes how a grass carp of several kilograms was eaten up by a group of red piranhas in seven or eight centimeters in a few minutes. The aquarium manager introduced that these red piranhas are cruel and ferocious. Their IQ is higher than other fish. They have their own strategy while attacking other fish. Firstly, one or two of them would chase and bite the quarry’s eyes and tail. When it cannot move anymore, all other red piranhas in the group flock over. It is said that this is the first aquarium to show red piranha to the public in China.
When this reporter showed the fish he had bought from a fish stall at the Yuanhu Flowers and Birds Market, the technician identified it as a red piranha, the same species of those raised in the aquarium.
Guangxi located in the tropical zone has favorable climate and natural environment for red piranha. Mr. Zhou Fang, researcher of the Zoology Institute in Guangxi University, said with a heavy heart that Nanning’s climate and natural environment are similar to that of the Amazon valley. Once the fish worm its way into the Yijiang River of Guangxi, the result will be disastrous and its fresh water ecology will be destroyed. In order to explain the harm which may be bought by red piranha to the safety of the ecology, Zhou Jie, engineer of Guangxi Fishery Environment Inspection Center, gave some examples. Plecostumus (Plecostomus punctatus) were once introduced into China as Ashman in the water. Because of its low cost, the fish was easily abandoned later. Now, plecostumus are found in many rivers and ditches and some of them have grown as big as over one kilogram. Plecostumus has also brought problems to Taiwan, where they destroyed the balance of the ecology. With no natural enemy in the rivers and a strong reproducing ability, they eventually became a big fish tribe in the rivers, greatly cutting off the number of other species.
Now it’s time for Guangxi to adopt practical measures to protect its biosphere. Departments of environment, fishery, and aquatic request Nanning Marine World to reinforce its safety equipment and check the fish number regularly. Every death of its red piranhas must be reported to relevant department to keep an accurate record of the killing fish.
Leading officials of the administrative bureau of industry and commerce said they are determined to thoroughly investigate the issues of illegal red piranha trading and tighten their control to ensure the ecology balance in all corners of Guangxi.
(china.org.cn, translated by Wu Nanlan, November 7, 2002)