BALIK PULAU: A photographer put his life in danger when he used his bare hands to catch two deadly box jellyfish that got caught in his fishing net and gave them away for research purposes.
Scientists have only recently begun researching this deadly species of jellyfish, which is not native to the waters off Penang.
The Star’s assistant chief photographer Wan Mohizan Wan Hussein caught the two jellyfish while netting for prawns.
The box jellyfish were snagged in his net about one nautical mile west of Balik Pulau.
“The lucky thing is that they have short tentacles,” said Wan Mohizan.
“So I picked them up by their heads and put them in a bucket of sea water on the boat.”
Unlike less venomous jellyfish that can have tentacles over a metre long, the box jellyfish’s are less than 20cm long.
The ones Wan Mohizan caught were the size of a large coffee mug.
The photographer said he dropped a live anchovy into a pail with the jellyfish to see the venom’s effect.
The anchovy soon stopped moving and sank.
“We’ve been finding them caught in our nets for many years. Sometimes, only their tentacles get snagged and we can get stung while retrieving the net.
“The pain is unbearable. It’s like a fire spreading slowly through the body. The normal jellyfish sting only gives a burning itch,” said Wan Mohizan.
The box jellyfish were handed to Universiti Sains Malaysia’s Centre for Marine and Coastal Studies (Cemacs).
Cemacs director Datuk Prof Dr Aileen Tan warned people not to repeat Wan Mohizan’s stunt.
“It’s not safe! The bell of the jellyfish has no venom, but the tentacles might float up and sting you,” she said.
Early this month, The Star reported that Cemacs was studying this deadly animal’s population in Penang.
They are an invasive species that was previously not thought to exist here.
They are believed to have been brought here in the ballast of big ships.
Their venom causes Irukandji Syndrome, which includes severe hypertension, extreme lower back pain, nausea, vomiting, intense cramps, lung and heart failure.
While not as lethal as the Australian Box Jellyfish (Chironex fleckeri), which can kill an adult human in three minutes, these are still life-threatening to children, the elderly and the weak.