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July 8, 2011
By Mike Wolterbeek
Real life scary fish, huge freshwater fish said to feed on humans, may harken thoughts of the Jaws and Piranha movies that are said to have created irrational fears of water and the creatures that live there.
“Lack of knowledge about these fish and their murky habitats reinforces those fears, because often we fear what we don’t understand,” Zeb Hogan, conservation biologist from the University of Nevada, Reno and host of the National Geographic Channel television series Monster Fish, said. “As part of our research, we find out the truth about these fish.”
Hogan has heard plenty of stories, such as The River Devil, a giant catfish in India that scavenges the remains of funerals pyres (and snatches the occasional bather), or 8-foot-long eels so large and aggressive that they chase SCUBA divers out of the water in New Zealand. He’s also studied dinosaur-sized stingray and sawfish capable of delivering horrific wounds. But what is the truth about these fish?
These fish are “megafish,” freshwater giants that live in lakes and rivers, that are more than 200 pounds and six feet long, some reaching 23-feet in length. The stories come from around the world and Hogan will shed light on some of these stories in the new season of Monster Fish episodes on the National Geographic Channel this summer, starting Friday, July 8, with new shows airing through August.
To uncover the truths about monster fish, Hogan, also recently named a National Geographic Fellow, has spent the past five years in the field – and underwater – on six continents to meet and study these fish on their own terms. His goal: to find, study and preserve the largest freshwater fish and also to investigate some of the most outrageous of all fish folklore and determine whether they are fact or fiction.
“There is the impression out there that a lot of these fish are dangerous, but in reality, few of them are dangerous and most of them are endangered,” Hogan, said. “One of the purposes of the Monster Fish show is to find out the truth and the science behind the river monsters and some of the misleading stories out there. This helps our main objective: protecting the fish from overfishing, habitat destruction and invasive species.”
He swims with these “man-eaters,” and investigates the misconceptions about the mysterious fish. His research and travels around the globe have been chronicled on the television series Monster Fish on the National Geographic Channel since 2006, with seven new shows debuting this summer in the United States. The new episodes began airing in Europe and Asia this spring.
In the first of this season’s new shows, Predators of the Outback, Hogan visits the Australian Outback, where the dry season leaves five top predators—bull sharks, freshwater and saltwater crocodiles, stingrays and sawfish—stranded in waterholes with limited food supplies.
Predators begins at 9 p.m. on July 8. It is bookended by two previous shows, Monster Fish of the Amazon at 8 p.m. and Flying Carp at 10 p.m.
Other shows in the line-up are:
“I’m delighted to share my research and the work to protect these fish,” Hogan said. “These are some of the largest, most unique, and most endangered fish on Earth. It’s important to raise awareness about these giants and the freshwater habitats where they live – I think it’s a subject that people can really appreciate.”
Visit the Megafishes Project for more information.