Cambodian fishermen on the Mekong River got a shock when they inadvertently hooked an endangered giant freshwater stingray, measuring four metres in length and weighing 180 kilos, scientists reported on Wednesday.
The female leviathan, one of Southeast Asia’s largest and rarest species of fish, was caught by accident last week in Stung Treng province when it swallowed a smaller fish that had taken a baited hook.
An international team of experts on the US-funded Wonders of the Mekong project worked with the fishermen to unhook the ray before weighing and measuring it and returning it unharmed to the river.
The giant Mekong is a crucial habitat for a vast array of species large and small. Project leader Zeb Hogan, a fish biologist from the University of Nevada, said the river’s underwater ecosystem was still poorly understood.
“They are unseen worlds, underappreciated and out of sight,” he said in a statement issued by his university.
The Mekong is home to more than 1,000 fish species and the stingray is not the only giant lurking in the muddy waters - the giant catfish and giant barb also reach up to three metres long and 270 kilos in weight.
The study group said in the statement that the remote location the ray was caught in has pools up to 80 metres deep and could harbour even bigger specimens.