River Monsters Season One
Episode Title: Piranha
The Monster: Piranhas
Other Species: Armored Catfish, Payara, Freshwater River Dolphin
The Bus Crash and 39 Victims
The episode begins with a reenactment of a tragic incident that happened in 1976 which involved a bus crashing into the Amazon causing the deaths of 39 people. It isn’t the crash itself that causes Jeremy to go to the amazon to investigate the deaths of the passengers, but it’s what happened to the bodies…they had been partially eaten by packs of piranha. Some of the passengers had been so viciously feasted on by these little razor toothed fish they could no longer be recognized and had to be identified by the clothes they were wearing.
This is the stuff of cheap sci-fi horror flicks and many people, whether they fish or not know the piranha as a ravenous fish that travels in a ravenous pack consuming in seconds, and body, whether it be man or beast, unlucky enough to be in the water.
But how true is this? Is it fact or legend? Are piranhas really dangerous to humans or are they just misunderstood? As Jeremy is telling the story about the bush crash he expresses skepticism to the validity of the story since he has never come across a single piece of scientific evidence confirming the death and consumption of a human by piranhas. Jeremy even consults with a piranha expert in London and he expresses that it could happen but he’s also never seen any documented evidence of piranhas killing and eating a human. However, just because it’s never been documented, doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened as Jeremy soon finds out.
Jeremy heads to The Amazon to find evidence of piranha attacks on humans and begins his search at a fish market. He explains that the majority of piranha species are actually vegetarians with only a few being carnivorous and these few are responsible for the piranha’s gruesome reputation. He soon encounters a man with a story about elderly gentleman who happened to fall into the river one night and was unable to get out on his own. When his body was found shortly after, it was nothing more than a skeleton apparently stripped of all flesh by piranhas. This happened two months prior to Jeremy’s arrival but he can’t get a name or witness and though it’s the type of evidence he’s looking for it may just be another fisherman’s tale.
Jeremy leaves the fish market and the next scene is him fishing on the river. The first fish he lands on rod and reel isn’t a piranha but a payara. This impressive fish is a relative of the piranha but sports two massive fangs in its lower jaw that can reach lengths up to six inches. This fish however hunts alone and not in packs and its not the fish responsible to the grizzly attacks on the bus crash victims.
Swimming with Piranhas
After catching the payara, Jeremy abandons his fishing gear and switches to a simple long stick with some line and a hook attached to it and is soon hooking piranha after piranha on almost every cast. While releasing one of his many piranha catches Jeremy tells viewers how to river is full of piranha then he dives into the water where he’s been catching all this little but deadly fish.He explains that if the people where actually eaten alive and yet he is capable of swimming within a pack a piranha without them attacking him, then there must be some other factor that caused the attacks on humans if the attacks actually did happen.
He then has a pool filled with over a hundred red belly piranhas at a local hotel similar to a scene from the James Bond film You Only Live Twice which Jeremy mentions as a motivation for this scene. The piranhas haven’t been fed in days so they’re good and hungry. He then introduces blood into the water and this get the piranhas excited. After the blood, he introduces a piece of raw meat and the frenzy begins. After the meat, Jeremy himself enters the pool filled with the piranhas and just like when he dove into the piranha filled river, the piranhas appear to have no interest in him.
After Jeremy has his fill of swimming with piranhas, he tracks down a survivor of the bush crash who gives his account of the accident. He describes his escape and the condition of the bodies when they were finally pulled from the river. The viewers are then presented with actual images of piranha victims recently taken to the morgue. Due to their grizzly nature the images are presented quickly but you get enough view time to see the damage inflicted and recognize the parts of the body the images came from such as the face.
Moving on from the bus crash Jeremy describes a period where 190 people suffered attacks by piranhas but they were not killed an eaten. These were single bites with no fatalities. Trying to understand the reason for this, the piranha expert in London makes another appearance explaining that piranha will guard their young and the attacks were likely the result of people straying too close to piranha nests. The expert also explains that a recent piranha study revealed that piranhas shoal not because they are pack hunters but for safety reasons. They shoal for protection from other predators and Jeremy again enters the water, though this time with the creatures that preys on piranhas.
The Piranha Hunters and a Child Consumed
Standing on a floating platform Jeremy views the splashes from these creatures and begins tossing them fish soon thereafter entering the river the reveal the identity of the piranha hunter…freshwater dolphins. Jeremy has a floatation device and a bucket of fish he’s feeding to the dolphins and while they are playful they are also nippy and he soon exits the water.
Still having not identified the reason for the piranha attacks on people aside from defending their young Jeremy is soon back to rod and reel fishing. Jeremy hooks into a hard fighting armored catfish and when he brings it on board his boat he sees that a piranha attacked the catfish while it struggled on his line. This causes him to believe that the sound and actions of a distressed animal or person triggers the predatory response from carnivorous piranhas.
After this revelation, Jeremy travels to a floating settlement that must live with the threat of piranhas every day. He obtains a dead duck and conducts and experiment to see how quickly a pack of piranhas can strip a carcass. He places the duck in the water and soon after the piranhas begin to feed in a frenzied fashioned. The ducks doesn’t look too bad when removed from the water but when Jeremy flips to duck over to reveal the side exposed to the piranhas, we see that the piranhas do indeed quickly and efficiently remove flesh from a carcass leaving little left but bone and feathers.
Jeremy them talks to some of the people that live in the floating settlement and is told a story of their small grandchild that fell into the water and before the child could be removed from the water, the piranhas descended and quickly killed and consumed the child. When the family members were finally able to retrieve the body all that was left was bones.
Jeremy has found his evidence, he has found his eyewitness account of a pack a piranhas attacking, killing, and eating a human.