Arapaima, giant Amazon fish in danger of extinction

From poison dart frogs to golden tamarin moneys, hyacinth macaws to three-toed sloths, many of the animals that make their home in the Amazon rainforest are now under threat.

Whether it’s because of illegal logging, the destruction of their natural habitat or over hunting, the future of some of the rarest and most beautiful creatures in the jungle is looking increasingly uncertain.

The same is unfortunately true of the arapaima. One of the most iconic of all Amazon rainforest animals, the giant fish is now in real danger of extinction. Though you may not spot one of these monstrous river dwellers during Amazon Jungle expeditions or excursions, knowing a little bit more about these giants of the rainforest will help to give you a better understanding of the Amazon and its remarkable inhabitants.

What is the Arapaima?

Reaching an average length of more than two metres and weighing well over 100kg, the arapaima is the largest fresh water fish in South America and one of the largest in the world.

In some exceptional cases, these monsters of the deep have been known to grow to 4.5 metres and reach weights of 200kg, making them one of the biggest Amazon rainforest animals and true giants of the waterways.

Why is Arapaima facing extinction?

UnderwaterThough many Amazon Rainforest animals are endangered, the arapaima are currently in particular danger of extinction. This is largely due to the fact that, unlike other Amazonian fish, the arapaima has developed a sort of primitive lung, allowing it to breathe air and survive in the oxygen poor waters of the flooded waterways.

As a result, the fish has to surface on a regular basis, making it easy to spot and therefore easy to fish. Its large size also makes it a real prize for local fishermen who can not only feed their families, but also make money out of selling excess arapaima.

How low have populations dropped?

In many cases, arapaima are already locally extinct having disappeared from 19% of the communities surveyed in a recent study. In another 57% of communities, the fish were deemed to be depleted or approaching extinction.

However, though the current situation looks bleak, recent conservation projects have had positive results with fishing regulation helping to improve arapaima stocks and encourage the species to breed.

Whatever the future holds for this rainforest giant, its place as one of the most incredible Amazon rainforest animals has already been secured. But with concerted efforts by both the Brazilian government and local communities, the enormous Arapaima may just make it yet.

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