Anyone who has seen the James Bond film where luckless victims are fed to a pool of flesh-hungry piranhas may be alarmed to hear that Portugal is now on piranha alert in the Nabão River near Tomar.
Three of the perishing flesh-eaters have been found in the river in the last week, and locals are worried there may be a whole school of the blighters waiting to nibble toes or worse of Tomar’s intrepid.
Environmentalist Américo Costa from local Grupo Aqua has told reporters: “There are places along the river where children like to swim or do watersports, like canoeing, and a fish of this kind can bite and seriously hurt people.”
It is definitely a case of “don’t take your children to the river today” as Costa reveals there could be “many more piranhas” still out there and the ones caught this far are not to be sneezed at.
Measuring 35 centimetres, they have all weighed in at around a kilo.
“There are those who have seen others,” he said obliquely, stressing there could be “a large shoal on the Nabão.”
Tomar council is refusing to enter the panic, and very possibly the river as well – saying only that it is confident the fish will not disrupt the river’s “ecological balance”.
Local aquarium and fish vendor José Silva is nothing like as sure, warning that piranhas can grow to “considerable sizes” and if they do so in the Nabão river this could have “devastating consequences on other species” – possibly even on our own.
As locals rapidly rethink any idea of a lazy weekend drifting languidly along the riverbank, newspapers look into the nitty-gritty of piranhas, known also as Pacu.
According to Correio da Manhã, they can be purchased for as little as a euro when they are tiddlers and are classified as omnivores – coming from Mato Grosso in Brazil and “other South American countries”.
The first to ‘hit the headlines’ was caught by a fisherman at the end of April.
Two more were caught in nets in the centre of town last week, but have apparently since died. Costa and colleagues are now going to study the carcasses to try and determine how long the fish had been living in the river.
But until more information is available, word on the riverbank is “do not enter the water”…