Re: NANFA-- extreme collecting II

Christopher Scharpf (
Sun, 15 Dec 2002 11:00:00 -0400

> The Discovery Channel (I think) had an entertaining show about an electric
> eel researcher just last week. He did get one good jolt when he picked up
> a hoop net in shallow water. This guy was even snorkeling with them--
> dozens of adult eels were swimming all around him.

I saw that show, too.

While visiting a tropical fish exporter in Iquitos, I was amazed to see
workers there handling electric eels with bare hands and not getting
shocked. I later learned that the workers, expecting our arrival, harrased
the eels until they used up all their juice. Then the eels are safe to
handle for a short while.

According to all the references I've seen, the discharge from an electric
eel is strong enough to knock a person down, but not to kill him (unless he
drowns after being knocked down). I think stories of electric eels killing
horses are also exaggerations, although it may be possible for one to fall a
horse in certain conditions.

> I made some comment about this to someone who has collected some of those
> areas while we were at a killie event (probably Jim Thomerson). He responded
> that yes, one had to be careful around piranhas, but mostly they were
> dangerous in the dry season when stranded in a pool where they were indeed
> starving and became panicked when cornered.

Yes, I can say from personal experience that piranhas are not dangerous
(unless you are trying to get a hook from their mouths). I have safely swam
with them many times in their natural habitat. In fact, piranhas are wimpy,
nervous fishes....although I would probably stay out of the water when they
are feeding on a fish or capybara carcass.

> He noted that Native Americans were careful with piranhas but feared the
> Candiru and the freshwater stingrays.

Yep, those are the 2 most feared fishes in Amazonia. The ray's toxin is
immensely painful. I've heard stories of locals killing themselves by
running into trees the pain was so bad. I saw a local whose hand merely
rubbed up against the stinger of a dead ray and it was seriously inflamed.

> Thomerson also was fond of showing a slide of Leo Hoigne's finger. Attached
> like the extension of a additional digit, was a baby wolf fish who just
> wouldn't let go.

Yep, wolf fish (Hoplias) are mean and have big teeth and strong jaws. They
are found everywhere in Amazonia, in all habitats. They're good to eat, too.

Chris Scharpf
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