A local daily carries an article today which caught my eye. It says that the recent death of two park rangers in Lake Kenyir was possibly caused by a killer/monster fish suspected lurking within the depths of the man-made lake since it was built as part of the Kenyir Dam more than 30 years ago.
Located at the eastern state of Terengganu, the lake is surrounded by forest reserves and will also lead to the National Park, reputably one of the oldest tropical forest in the nation. It is reputably the biggest man-made lake in SEA, with coverage of about 300 plus islands spreading out within the water catchments area of nearly 38,000 hectares. The biggest island is estimated to be as big as the Lion City or the Pearl Of The Orient. It got its name from Kenyir River, which now lies beneath the lake after it is filled with rainfalls. Neolithic era artifacts and tools had been discovered from the area. The deepest point is said to be around 140 metres.
Now back to the article. It said that the orang asli elders had suspected that the Ikan Naga (dragon fish) probably caused the boat to capsize. It was also highlighted that foreign workers had seen the creature during the construction of the dam back in mid 70s. An eyewitness of the recent incident said the boat was spinning around and could not see the victims anywhere. The Ikan Naga is shrouded in myth and folklore, much like Loch Ness and other lake monsters of the world. Its girth alone is said to be 4 meters with colorful sharp fins and scales like a shark. Uh...I thought shark does not possess scales...Let me indulge in a little novice/x-file investigation... The lake contains lots of species of freshwater fish like Baung, Toman, Kelisa, Lampam and Kelah and one of the main attraction of the lake is sports fishing. Fish like Toman aka Giant Snakehead (Channa micropeltes) could grow to a metre long and is a ferocious fish ( like a freshwater barracuda) with muddy taste meat (but still it is a popular meal locally). But it would not be able to tilt or ram a boat. Hmm...what about remote possibility of invasive species? With the proliferation of exotic animal trade globally (one could pretty much get any animal provided one got da mulah), some pet owners could have gotten bored of their animals and discarded it. Possibly flushed down into the drain or toilet (aligator movies and urban myth) and gain access to the lake? Long shot chances. I wonder what sort of animal will it be? It gotta fit the description that's for sure. From the name the elders called it, which is Ikan Naga, so it must be dragon-like fish. And have scales and colorful sharp fins. In freshwater of course.
Here's a personal list of possible contenders :
a) Arowana (Sceleropages Formosus) ~ grows up to 1 metre. Arowana belongs to the primitive bony fishes family and famous as ornamental fish. Its natural habitat includes this country. However, there has been no report of an arowana growing bigger than a metre.
b) Arapaima (Arapaima Gigas) ~ grows up to 2.5 metres (4 metres reported but not verified). A famous giant freshwater fish from Amazon, it has been increasingly available in the pet trades as well as being introduced as sport fish locally. Its head is compressed with scales covering the entire body. Part of the primitive bony fishes family. Eats other fishes but known to prey on water fowl as well.
c) Giant Mekong Catfish (Pangsasianodon Gigas) ~ grows up to 3 metres. It is a herbivore, feeding mostly on plants and algae. Indigenous to the Mekong Delta.
d) Chinese Paddlefish (Psephurus Gladius) ~ grows up to 5 metres (7 metres reported but unverified). With spatula like mouth, elongated shape. Feeds on zoo plankton. Belongs to the primitive ray finned fishes family. However, feared to be extinct as no adult nor juvenile has been sighted or caught since 2003. Confined to the Yangtze River. Reason of possible extinction? The construction of the Gezhouba Dam and The Three Gorges Dam.
e) Alligator Gar (Atractosteus Spatula) ~ grows up to 3 metres. A true monster, these gars have rows of sharp teeth to snap and hold their prey. Its head looks like the Indian Gharial crocodile, with armor-like body scales all over. Belongs to the primitive bony fishes family. Eat fishes but known to eat turtles and water fowls as well. Found in Northern and Central America but readily available in pet trades.
f) Giant Stingray (?) ~ grows up to 5 metres. Diet consists mainly of crustaceans. Would make a nice ikan bakar meal with belacan lasting me several weeks...However, it has been reported that the giant stingrays may pull boats upstream or even underwater. Said to have been found in this country as well as part of Australia and nations surrounding the Mekong Delta.
g) Bichirs (family : Polypteridae) ~ grow up to 3 feet. Not a contender in terms of size but it really looks like a dragon, particularly when it is swimming. Covers with scales like armor. Also belongs to the bony fishes family.
Other giants include the Chinese Sturgeons (5 metres), Lake Sturgeons (2 metres), river catfish (1.5 metre) and Eurasian Trout (2 metres).
So, which one would fit the bill? I would love to say the stingray but it lack scales and doesn't look dragon-like. With the exception of river catfish which are found aplenty locally, the giant version is confined to the Mekong River system and is endangered. Sturgeons are out as well coz they are anadromous ie lives in saltwater sea and only comes to freshwater to breed. There is no trout in tropical countries...the paddle fish may be extinct in their own habitat, least it would come to the country's man made lake for holiday. Arowana and toman very very rarely reach 1 metre. That leaves only the gar and arapaima. But still it would not be large enough to capsize or tilt a boat. The fantasy part of me wants to imagine that perhaps there is, by some freak of nature, an arapaima or gar which someone had discarded into the lake 30 years ago, has grown to a gigantic size. But the truth is that no fishes, irregardless how plentiful their natural diets are available to them, would grown bigger than what they should. Maybe fatter but never bigger. Ever seen a 15 feet man, irregardless how much he eats? Also, there is the matter of perspective. I have seen an adult 2 metres arapaima and man, it is scary. Doesn't looks like 2 metres at all...much bigger than that. But it's all in my mind and the fact remains it is 2 metres. More importantly, I personally felt that if there were to be some monster fishes lurking around, it would not be able to hide themselves for long. Someone would have caught it earlier (which reminds me of the Bigfoot reports several years ago, I wonder what happen to it?).