At least one hundred swimmers at a resort in northeastern Brazil were bitten by voracious piranhas – toothy Amazonian fish that are known to strip the flesh from living animals and people.
Authorities in the State of Piauí have decided that it is time to somehow reduce the population of the silvery fish found in Brazilian freshwater lakes and rivers that appear in ravenous large schools.
According to local media over the September 24-25 weekend, vacationing swimmers were hospitalized in the town of José de Freitas after suffering bites on their feet and toes. Romildo Mafra, local director of the Brazilian Environmental Affairs in the town said “Since there are no other predators, the piranhas have begun to attack swimmers.” The attacks occurred approximately 30 miles from Terezin, the capital of Piauí.
Responding to the attacks, the environmental agency will introduce more than 100,000 adult and fry of the Tilapia species, as well as another 200,000 traíra and tucunaré fish, all of which are predators that seek out piranhas. Mafra explained that among the factors that may have led to an overpopulation of piranhas is illegal fishing. Both tucunaré and traíra are prized by market and sportfishermen. Both of these species consume piranha eggs while in turn juvenile tucunaré and traíra are preyed upon by piranhas.
Tucunaré are members of the Cichlidae family, which includes some species known as peacock bass. Some have been known to reach 25 pounds and surpass three feet in length. As for traíra, they belong to the Erythrinidae family of predators and are found in an extensive area ranging from North America all the way to the River Plate in Argentina. Some are known to exceed 8 pounds. The much feared piranha has been found as far north as Wisconsin, having been introduced there presumably by aquarists. Besides its native South America, it has been found in Asia as well. They may reach as much as 17 inches in length.