Are there any giant catfish that can really eat humans?

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You've probably heard stories that say they can. So we asked Heiko Bleher, who's seen some giant catfish in his time...

 

You've probably heard stories that say they can. So we asked Heiko Bleher, who's seen some giant catfish in his time...

No, despite what you may have heard, there aren't. This is a myth, along with age-old claims that giant anacondas or piranhas eat men. People, especially the Caboclos in Amazonia and natives of other parts of South America and in Asia, love to tell these blood-curdling stories!

I have just completed another Amazon expedition where one native of the Makuna tribe told me about a giant catfish (Brachyplatystoma vallentii), which swallows people. Several people had apparently disappeared around the location where the giant fish had been seen and many natives 'confirmed' its existence. Yet when I asked if anyone had actually seen the fish attack anyone there was no answer.

In September 2007 there was a startling 'man-eater' news report with a picture of a 'catfish' nearly 3m/10ft long and head more than 0.9m/3ft wide in the Guangdong reservoir in China. When it was cut open human remains were said to have been found inside. However, it turned out to be a whale shark and the story had been a set-up.

In October 2008 another large catfish was caught in the Great Kali river, between India and Nepal, and it was claimed to have started eating swimmers. This monster was called a Goonch and it was about 1.8m/6ft. This 'monster fish' lived in a stretch often used to dispose of human bodies after Hindu funeral rites.

It was thought this may have led the Goonch to start taking live human victims, but there was never any proof. In fact it eventually turned out to be a Bagarius bagarius catfish which could not even have swallowed a child.

Conclusive proof that giant catfish have eaten humans has yet to be found!