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Marina De Brito

The elusive pirarucu


Posted from: Jacare
The pirarucu is the largest scaled fresh water fish in the world. It is emblematic of the Mamiraua Institute because of the successful management programme they have implemented, which has increased the stocks of this once endangered fish very successfully in the reserve. It has become emblematic of our shoot too because for days we have been trying to catch one.

They sat for hours on end on a tiny canoe with Tapicoa trying to catch one but only ever getting a glimpse of one before it dove deep into the waters. The waters are so murky it was hard to see it at all unless it was coming up for air... But one fishing day followed another and the rest of the crew would sit and wait silently on the edges of the flooded forest waiting for Bruce to call us in with the walkie talkie. We spent about four afternoons like this.
Gone mad

On one occasion our expert jungle guide, Dudu, swore he heard Bruce whistling for us with the emergency whistle. Everyone was activated, the speed boat sped up to the Mamiraua floating research base where Keith and I were spending a relaxing afternoon, and we joined Zubin, Matt and Dudu who were all besides themselves with excitement. At last we were going to see the huge fish, had Bruce finally caught one? Was he struggling to haul 200 kilos of fish onto a little canoe as we spoke? Would we suddenly see Bruce and Tapioca being dragged along the river in their canoe by this huge fish? Would Bruce be skiing behind one?

Bruce finally catches a pirarucu
Bruce finally catches a pirarucu

Our imaginations were fertile, driven on by the long waits and heat! We finally managed to establish radio contact with them and alas! There was no fish, there had been no whistle! Dudu - who claimed to recognise every jungle noise, be it bird, monkey or fish - had got it so wrong!

Fortunately the pirarucu episode does have a happy ending for us, but not for the pirarucu we finally caught with the second community we stayed with. After four afternoons spent waiting for this catch, Bruce finally caught one within the first half hour of our expedition to the second community's lake!

Find out more about Amazonas wildlife.

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