KUALA TERENGGANU: There is a strong possibility a type of giant fish, the aparaima gigas exists in Kenyir Lake, as there have been reports of its sightings, state Fishery Department director Munir Mohd Nawi said.
The fish - dubbed the Kenyir Monster by locals here, created quite a stir after the death of two men on June 17 supposedly linked to the fish. The possible existence of this fish in the biggest manmade lake in South East Asia was reported in the The Star the following day.
A team of fish biologists would conduct detailed research on the giant fish, said Munir.
He added there were numerous claims by locals, some even producing photographs to show the existence of the aparaima gigas.
“A research team will embark on an expedition to determine its existence and size,” he said after the Agriculture Expo opening at Dataran Shahbandar here recently.
Munir added the department would attempt to collect more facts about the aparaima gigas in Kenyir as the species was once sighted in Johor but there had been no other reports since then.
In the June 17 incident, Kenyir bird park supervisor Helmi Sukhri Hisham, 28, drowned after he mysteriously fell off his boat - believed due to the impact when his boat could have been hit by the arapaima gigas.
A few hours later, state Fire and Rescue Department driver Aladi Hasan, 41, who had gone to the lake to search for him, also drowned.
Eyewitness saw Aladi struggling to reach the lake surface after going in to find Helmi. Moments later, a huge water swirl appeared, leading locals to believe Aladi might have been shocked to see the fish, which could have swam close to him.
Based on the information obtained from marine encyclopaedia, arapaima gigas could reach 4.9m in length in its natural habitat.
The fresh water species is commonly found in the Amazon and Orinoco rivers of South America.
Arapaima gigas is covered with large, thick scales and a small tail.
Its wide mouth faces upward and the colour ranges from dark brown to black with blue highlights and red edges, particularly on the tail.
The fish could also leap several metres into the air and its powerful head could capsize small boats on impact.