Authorities in central China hunting for a “monster” fish have drained a large lake in a city park after attempts to catch the elusive creature failed, with millions watching a live stream of the operation.
The fish is believed to be an invasive species from North America called an alligator gar. City workers in Ruzhou, Henan province, tried various ways of catching the fish since the middle of last month, before deciding to drain the more than 200,000-cubic-metre lake earlier this week.
Often called “living fossils”, the alligator gar living in the lake is reportedly about 80 centimetres long and was spotted by a resident in mid-July, with public interest growing after a video of the fish appeared online.
Though attacks on humans are rare, the torpedo-shaped fish can grow up to three metres long and is considered by authorities to pose a threat to residents and the local ecosystem.
After the lake was emptied on Thursday, the fish was nowhere to be found and is believed to have hidden in a 100-metre-long pipeline leading into the lake.
Authorities are still working on a plan to catch the beast without entering the pipe directly due to complicated conditions inside, including silt, standing water and foul air, Qi Li, an official in charge of the park’s maintenance, told local news app Zhengguan News.
“Initially we used large fishing nets to try to catch it, and later we invited professional hunters to search for it with a sonar locator, but the alligator gar might have hidden after being frightened,” he said, adding that draining the lake had been the last resort.
“We have totally considered the possible impact of lowering the water level on the ecosystem,” he said.
The draining of the lake has attracted controversy because of the high cost, with some people questioning the value of the operation to find a single fish.
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However, most people have been fascinated by the unusual hunt which has attracted media outlets and live-streamers curious to see the empty lake and the “monster fish”.
Millions online have followed the hunt in the hope of catching a glimpse of the “highly dangerous strange fish from America”.
Alligator gars have shown up in China before, but have never attracted this level of attention.
The fish is suspected of entering the country through the exotic pet trade and is listed as one of 10 major invasive aquatic organisms by China’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs.