The problem — rather fearsome given piranhas’ horror-movie teeth and ability to sink them into human flesh — has been the biggest at the main beach area in Piaui state; authorities said they need to act fast to reduce a piranha overpopulation situation.
Last weekend, at least 100 bathers were treated at the hospital in Jose de Freitas not far from Terezina, Piaui’s capital, after being bitten on the heels or toes at the local beach.
“Since they have no predators, piranhas have started attacking people on the beach,” said Romildo Mafra, a local environment official.
Environmental officials so far have added tilapia to the piranhas’ local food chain hoping to quell some of the predators’ hunger.
But Jeremy Wade, host of Animal Planet’s “River Monsters” suspects the problem may not be about food availability but the fish’s nesting season. He points out they covered a similar phenomenon in the show’s first season and the fish were biting swimmers to defend their nests.
“The only way to avoid this is to keep out of these shallow areas at these times,” said Wade, “but unfortunately during these months both humans and piranhas are drawn to the same water: what’s a good place for piranhas to breed in is also (normally) good water for humans to bathe in.”
He points out that the nippings are a sign that the piranhas, contrary to their fierce image, are “devoted parents.”