The Star, Thursday 18 June 2009, Pg 33
HULU TERENGGANU: The deaths of Kenyir Lake's bird park supervisor and a rescue worker on Tuesday may have been caused by a monster fish that has lived in South-East Asia's largest man-made lake for the last three decades.
That's what elders from the orang asli (indigenous tribe) community in Sungai Berua, a village that borders Kenyir Lake, believe.
The victim, Helmi Sukhri Hisham, 28, drowned after he mysteriously fell off from his boat while a diver from State Fire and Rescue Department, Aladi Hassan, 41, also died when he attempted to retrieve the victim's body.
The orang asli folk claim to have sighted the fish on numerous occasions, and the creature has sharp finlets, is colourful and has scales similar to a shark. The orang asli call the fish 'Ikan Naga' (dragon fish).
Kuala Berang state assemblyman Mohd Zawawi Ismail said that in recent sightings, villagers claimed the giant fish measured over 4 metres in girth.
"As a young boy, I heard tales of this dragon fish in Kenyir and after 30 years, orang asli villagers claim the creature has grown to a gigantic size," he said when contacted here yesterday. He said foreigners who were involved in the Kenyir dam construction in 1978 also reported to have spotted the creature that once dominated the Kenyir river before the waterway was diverted into the man-made lake in 1985. He said the villagers believe that both victims were attacked by the creature.
Based on the account from villagers, Mohd Zawawi said the victim could have lost his balance when the large fish hit the bow of the boat. Helmi, from Yan in Kedah, had ferried his colleague to an island when the incident happened. The colleague, Bakri Mohd Noor, 30, said he heard a crashing sound when he was on the island's jetty.
"I ran towards the boat and found the boat spinning but Helmi was missing. I shouted out his name but there was no response so I decided to alert my superior," said Bakri.
State Fire and Rescue Department diving unit chief, Yusmizan Yusof, said 10 divers were involved in the search and rescue operation. The two bodies were retrieved from the lake at 7am and 8am yesterday.
I couldn't help laughing when I read this article from The Star yesterday. Not on the lost of lives, which were rather unfortunate, but rather on the belief that there is a monster killer fish of
gigantic proportion inhabiting Kenyir Lake.
Since when did sharks have scales? Or is it maybe the orang asli probably haven't seen
sharks before? And why was this fact not pointed out to them?
The claim that this monster fish has a girth of over 4 metres is pure exaggeration of the
highest level imaginable! If indeed it is, then the fish would have easily measured 8 metres
lengthwise. Then it indeed would be a monster fish! But all this are highly doubtful.
And finally, if there is indeed such a monstrous fish in Kenyir Lake, I doubt both the
victims' bodies could have been retrieved, which were in this case.
Therefore, the only reasonable and believable conclusion to all this monster fish claims,
is that it is most probably a fish of the 'Arapaima Giga' genus, released into the lake when it got
too big for comfort for its owner/s. The Arapaima Giga is native to South America's Amazon river
and have been known to attain 4.5 metres in length and weighing a hefty 200kgs.
As for the unfortunate victims, they most probably got themselves entangled in submerged
tree branches and drowned.
Personally, I have seen two of these fishes in the Mengkuang Dam, Seberang Perai,
about three years back. I haven't seen them since, but I've heard of sightings of a gigantic fish in
the dam by frequent visitors and illegal anglers alike.
Here, I have attached two pics of the fish to give some ideas of what the Arapaima Giga
looks like and the sheer size of it. So the next time, if anyone should visit the Mengkuang Dam,
be on the look-out for them, come rain or shine! CIAO!