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Comments from Frank Magallanes, OPEFE
It is my sincere hope that visitors who read OPEFE information will come away with a much better understanding of a creature that is clearly feared and misunderstood. Piranhas are more than just Hollywood monsters. The species are important contributors to the rain forest by devouring malaria carrying mosquitoes. While it has been suggested that piranhas eat seeds without dispersing seeds, unlike pacus which do, there is no doubt they are an important rain forest creatures. These creatures (along with other species) keep the Amazonian water clean from dead carcasses that would release harmful as well as potentially deadly diseases. This fish should never be underestimated for their value to humans. As I had earlier stated elsewhere on OPEFE, these fish are very much maligned both in the printed media and most cases Hollywood movies. To this day, printed media continues to erroneously refer to genera Colossoma and Piaractus as vegetarian piranha. A completely disingenuous term. There even continues to be serious scientific publications that also carry this erroneous information. With the diminishing populations of large fish in the Amazon region, piranhas are providing sustenance for the rain forest people in lieu of common dietary fish. Humans have been diverting water from the normal flow to create dams. This has caused the piranha to be trapped and increase their biting on unsuspecting people. Even their natural spawning areas have been disturbed to create recreational areas for humans. This has resulted in singular bites on humans, particularly the feet and legs (well documented).
Since the early 1960's, government agencies have proposed eradicating the piranha from South America wherever it was found. A few experts concluded that the piranha was nothing more than a pest to fishermen and a bane to development for profit and recreation. Fortunately, cooler heads have prevailed and today, the piranha is being viewed with a bit more realistic approach. Still the legendary piranha ferocious attacks are still being cited in today's printed media. Hobbyists who join piranha web sites for the first time are beginning to view the piranha as a fish and not a monster. Which is a good thing. Though video programs such as the internet YOUTUBE are allowing videos of aquarium piranhas eating live animals. This does nothing to promote the hobby and is not educational in anyway. What it does do is create further fear on people that do not understand how the animal actually is in its natural environment. And children that happen to see these video's are further harmed and given fear into believing this is how the fish normally behaves.
As a hobbyist and a keeper of piranhas for many years, I hope that anyone reading my comments will do their best to rid the internet of such videos. I also hope those that care about the piranha will continue to educate the general public about the real nature of this most famous fish.
Frank Magallanes - OPEFE
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