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Furong Reservoir - Giant Man Eating Catfish Hoax


Email claims that attached photographs show a massive man-eating catfish caught in the Furong Reservoir in Huadu, China.

Whale Shark
© Bolten

Brief Analysis

The claims in the message are untrue. The images are genuine but they do not show a catfish, man-eating or otherwise. Instead, they show a whale shark. Whale sharks are not considered harmful to humans.


Subject: It's Just a Catfish!

For all those crazy guys who go 'noodling' for catfish and stick their arms down the fish's throat!! This would be 'all the catfish you can eat.'

Each year, a few people were drowning or disappearing mysteriously in Huadu's Furong Reservoir. It was not until recently, when the son of a government official went swimming, in the reservoir and was drowned, that the secret was revealed.

It is a 3 meter long man-eating catfish whose head alone is 1 meter wide! After cutting up the catfish, people were surprised to find the remains of another man inside!

Swimming in the reservoir is now forbidden because it is feared another similar man-eating catfish is still lurking in the waters

Catfish 1

Catfish 1

Detailed Analysis

According to this email forward, the very large fish shown in the attached photographs is a man-eating catfish caught in the Furong Reservoir, a large lake located in China's Huadu District. The message claims that human remains were found inside the giant fish and suggests that it, and possibly other "catfish" like it, are responsible for the "mysterious" disappearances of people in the area.

However, the claims in the message are nonsense. The photographs themselves are genuine, but they do not depict a catfish, man-eating or otherwise. Instead, they show a whale shark. Whale sharks, which are the largest living fish, are filter feeders that live in the ocean. Despite their size, whale sharks are not considered harmful to humans. A Wikipedia entry about whale sharks notes:
This species, despite its size, does not pose significant danger to humans. Whale sharks are actually quite gentle and can play with divers. Divers and snorkelers can swim with this giant fish without risk apart from unintentional blows from the shark’s large tail fin
The following photographs, which are obviously part of the same series, show the whale shark being skinned and cut open to reveal the fish's entrails. They are generally left out of the prank email, presumably because the obvious lack of human remains inside the fish tend to "give the game away".

Cutting Up Whale Shark 1 Cutting Up Whale Shark 2

Thus, as is often the case, it seems that some unknown prankster has simply invented a tall tale to go with a set of interesting images. At first glance, whale sharks do have a passing resemblance to catfish, and it was perhaps this resemblance that sparked the idea of a "giant man-eating catfish" in the prankster's imagination.

Whale Shark

© paulcowell

Last updated: 23rd August 2010
First published: 14th February 2009
By Brett M. Christensen
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Whale Shark
Whale Shark (Rhincodon typus)