Residents of the southern Chinese city of Liuzhou may want to think twice about frolicking in the Liujiang River after government officials said two people were attacked by piranhas in its waters.
The state-run China Daily reported that the swimmers were paddling along the river when they were bitten badly by the South American species, prompting local officials to offer a bounty of $157 per fish to hunt down and eradicate the non-native predator.
The newspaper reported that the piranhas may have been released into the river by people who had bought them as ornamental fish.
Authorities said they are stepping up patrols of area markets to prevent the fish from being sold in the future.
Zhou Quan, a spokesman for the Liuzhou government, told the Daily that, "Residents in this city have no need to worry about piranhas in the Liu river."
He said the fish could not kill humans and could not live in water colder than 15C -- 59 degrees Fahrenheit -- giving them little hope of surviving and reproducing.
However, experts warned that the piranhas have no natural predators in China, and that while they may disappear naturally, they may also never get rid of them.
According to AnimalPlanet.com, piranhas are known for their sharp, pointed teeth and sharklike feeding frenzies. Although the piranha is usually small -- the red piranha grows no longer than 13 inches -- their teeth are set in powerful jaws, and top and bottom teeth interlock, giving the freshwater fish its ability to tear and rip flesh.
There are no confirmed reports of piranhas killing a human, but the fish is known to scavenge on human carcasses in rivers.
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