Friday, October 20, 2017

Tiger Of The River: Toman (淡水之虎:多曼)

I visited Mersing again with Yusof a few months later. He drove his four wheel drive into a native village just before the Mersing town.

The rain started to fall not long after the four wheel drive entered into a mud lane. It wasn't a pleasant journey that I can tell you: our vehicle passed through streams, mud pools, went up slopes and uneven terrain. I once suspected that I could hear sounds of my internal organs banging into each other.

Luckily, the rain stopped after we arrived at a river mouth where fog could be seen congregated momentarily before being dispersed by wind blowing down from the valley.

Tropical trees grown in abundance on both sides of the bank; millions of water droplets fell from the trees following the bellowing of the mountain wind. 

One particular spectacle monkey attracted my attention as it jumped from one tree branch to another. 

At one point the monkey dived till the lowest point of a tree branch and created the river water to splash. With the springing back of the tree branch, the monkey swiftly returned to the tree top.

I became attracted by the monkey's game and started to pay attention to it. After the monkey repeated his game of swinging up and down repeatedly a few times, during the final time that its tail entered into the river; a giant snakehead suddenly torpedoed up from the bottom of the river toward the monkey. The snakehead opened its bloody mouth filled with saw-like teeth and it bit the monkey.

Before the poor monkey could scream, the predator fish and the monkey both fell into the river and disappeared leaving the river water to be stained with blood.

Other monkeys on the tree were stirred with fear. They shook the tree branches and screamed loudly. The commotion lasted for a minute or so but their unfortunate companion would not return.

While I have heard of monkeys being attacked by predator animals like snakes and tigers, this was the first time I witnessed a monkey attacked by snakehead!

I would have guessed the predator fish to be more than 10kg in weight judging from the way it swam and jump out from the river. This fish should be much heavier than the one that was caught by a French in Thailand. His game fish was then weighing 7.5kg IGFA record.

Toman is perhaps at the top of the food chain in Malaysian fresh waters. However, it is not a fish of choice in restaurants as its meat is rough and tasteless. Toman also has no known medicinal effects. 

As far as I know, snakehead fish is hunted because anglers like the thrill of struggling with the fish and the sense of victory when the giant snakehead is finally being pulled out from the water.

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