Stories tagged man eaters

Oct
09
2008

This catfish is a small one: And it still wants to eat you.
This catfish is a small one: And it still wants to eat you.Courtesy Andyrob
The title of this post might be more accurate if it were something like “Mutant, man-eating catfish: probably not real,” but that one doesn’t thrill me so much. A lot of stuff has been spilled, leaked, excreted, and written on the Science Buzz’s cryptocouch of cryptozoology, but none of it looks like “probably not.”

So get a load of this: goonch catfish in the Kali River, which separates India and Nepal, are rumored to have developed a taste for human flesh and some locals think that they are now targeting human swimmers as prey! Whoa!

Bagarius yarrelli, or the goonch catfish, will commonly grow to a length of around 6 feet, and may weigh over 150 pounds. The story has it, however, that a particular goonch (or goonches) have grown exceptionally large off of a rich diet of partially burned human corpses thrown into the Kali River with the remains of funeral pyres. Not content with the charred leftovers of this nutritious delicacy, the goonch (or goonches) has been seeking out fresh meat.

Over the last twenty years, there have been a multitude of cases of bathers being pulled beneath the surface of the Kali, never to reappear. The most recent reported case involved an 18-year-old Nepali being dragged down into the river by something looking like “an elongated pig.” (Shut up! Shut up shut up shut up! Catfish can look like “elongated pigs,” okay?)

Isn’t that awesome? Mutant, man-eating catfish? Pretty sweet, especially if you don’t live by the Kali River.

Heck, I’d say you could stop reading now, if you want. I’m just going to go over a couple other points, which I think are more or less incidental. Not. Worth. Considering. Everything is so cool as it is, why would you want any more?

So. The mighty, carnivorous goonch… Mighty indeed is the goonch—the current world record holder comes in at 6 feet and 161 pounds, and this site claims that goonch weighing between 300 and 400 pounds can be observed in areas where fishing is not allowed (and, presumably, these are un-mutated specimens). “Carnivorous” is accurate too, although, well… generally B. yarrelli is thought to feed on aquatic insects, smaller fish, and prawns.

To describe the huge catfish as “mutants” might be a little sensationalistic too. Technically, to be a mutant something has to have a new genetic characteristic. To the best of my knowledge, eating people shouldn’t actually cause your genes to change. Unless those people were radioactive, or something, but in that case you’d probably just get cancer, not grow really big.

And there’s one other thing, one tiny little thing. I noticed that many of the websites for Kali River resorts and lodges (Bip, Boop, Bip) mention that large crocodiles can frequently be spotted in the water. But, you know, just because there are crocodiles around, and crocodiles have been known, on occasion, to pull people into the water and eat them, and people in this particular river have been pulled into the water and probably eaten… that doesn’t necessarily mean that crocodiles are responsible. Really, it could be anything.

Like, maybe, mutant, man-eating catfish.

Sep
17
2007

Tsavo Maneaters: Even scary in black and white.
Tsavo Maneaters: Even scary in black and white.
Last week I made a trip to Chicago with the sole purpose of going to the Field Museum. I had never been there before, and I was not disappointed. I saw plenty of cool stuff, including the stuffed bodies of the famous Tsavo man-eating lions. Coincidentally, last week the National Museum of Kenya demanded the return of the lions to Nairobi, claiming that they are important artifacts of the country’s history and heritage. I’m all for it – as long as I’ve seen the lions, I really don’t care what happens to them. I make all my decisions that way.

I do recommend that you look into the story of the lions, though. It’s pretty “badass” (I got that term off of the text on the Field Museum’s display). The short version of the story is this: In 1898, during the construction of a bridge over the Tsavo River for the Kenya-Uganda railway (dubbed “The Lunatic Express”), two exceptionally large, maneless male lions killed and ate about 140 railway workers over the course of nine months. That’s so many people.

The workers built thorn fences around their encampment, and set traps for the animals, but the lions were always able to crawl through the barriers, and avoid the traps and any ambush attempts, to drag men from their tents and eat them. Eventually Lt. Col. John Henry Patterson (an engineer overseeing the bridge’s construction) was able to shoot and kill the lions, although he claimed that each was able to withstand several shots from his rifle before falling.

Scientists are still unsure as to cause of the Tsavo maneaters unusual aggression and preference for human flesh, but several theories have been put forth. Some think that the lions’ skulls indicate that each had abscessed gums, which could have made attacking large and tougher animals too painful. Another theory is that an outbreak of rinderpest disease (a viral infection effecting cattle and related species) had decimated the lions’ usual food source, and forced them to seek other prey (i.e., humans). John Patterson’s journals also indicate that the graves of deceased workers had been disturbed and that the bodies had been removed, and some believe that the lions developed their taste for humans by scavenging in this way, and then modified their behavior to capture the sleeping workers from their tents.

The movie The Ghost and the Darkness is about the Tsavo events. It stars Michael Douglass and international film sensation Madmartigan.

Any thoughts on artifact repatriation, or about the lions specifically?

Jul
16
2007

The Fearsome Ratel: Sure, it isn't giant, and it's not eating a person, but you try doing that to a snake. Man, those mustelids are something else. (photo from Wikipedia commons)
The Fearsome Ratel: Sure, it isn't giant, and it's not eating a person, but you try doing that to a snake. Man, those mustelids are something else. (photo from Wikipedia commons)
Sometimes things happen in the real world that are so cool that my imagination just has to sit down in the corner and pout with jealousy.

Rumors have been spreading in the Iraqi port city of Basra that giant, man-eating badgers have begun to stalk the city at night. Many believe that British military forces stationed in the area released the creatures. A spokesman for the British forces said this: “We can categorically state that we have not released man-eating badgers into the area.”

Iraqi scientists believe that the offending creatures are much more likely to be a type of Honey Badger, or Ratel, than a genetically engineered weapon of the Brits. However, the badgers are reported to have killed livestock on the outskirts of the city, and even to have attacked some humans, and many insist that these incidents began only after the invasion of Iraq in 2003, and so the rumors are dying hard.

Ratels are in fact native to the region, but are nocturnal and generally avoid humans. They are also fearsome hunters, with prey ranging from earthworms to small crocodiles, and have been known to attack animals much larger than themselves.

Also, Wikipedia’s entry on Ratels includes this statement: “Several African tribes report that the honey badger attacks the scrotum of larger mammals if provoked and has even castrated humans.” This is an unsourced claim, but it’s one of those things where I’d just as soon err on the side of safety with Ratels. At the very least, one can’t blame the people of Basra for getting a little jumpy around them.

Night of the Killer Badgers