Some animals just capture our imagination, or should I say, our fear. Piranhas are one of those creatures that definitely fit into this category. I cannot recall exactly when I first heard of piranhas, but had been told they were flesh eating fish that attacked in groups eating other fish, or whatever else is in the water, to the bone. I think my oldest brother mentioned piranhas when I was young. In Junior High I saw a movie at school about the Spanish explorers. One of the men went swimming in the Amazon, and guess what? Let’s just say I was convinced to never swim in the Amazon.
I have always been fascinated with the diversity of animals on our planet and how each of the continents has its own unique, often strange, animals. I love watching documentaries on wildlife, or shows such as River Monsters. When I created the board game Treasure Trove, I wanted that sense of adventure and exploration to be evident as players travel the world in search of treasure. I deliberately mentioned some of the exotic animals indigenous to the various continents. Some of these I placed with drawings on the game board, while others I placed within the situation cards. I placed the following card in the stack of cards for South America.
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I love watching the TV show River Monsters. Jeremy Wade does a very good job of creating suspense as he ties together fish stories and legends from around the world with actual reality. Jeremy treks across the globe entertaining us with the facts behind the legendary stories of monstrous fish and most of the time proves that legends and myths often have a foundation to them. He almost always catches something to prove his position. His fish catches would individually be the catch of a lifetime for me. He makes it look almost routine, that is, I have gotten to where I expect him to catch something interesting and often quite large each episode. Even the episodes that sound like they would not be any big deal often turn out to worthwhile viewing.
One week I hesitated to watch because the opening dialogue spoke of his visiting Japan to catch a huge man eating catfish. That sounded a bit much to swallow(pardon the pun), and for a moment thought he was stretching the viewer’s interest when he shared how Japanese fishermen of old times actually believed gigantic catfishes caused earthquakes and tsunami’s. I shook my head as I laughed, but………….recent research reveals that catfish are more active and act differently shortly before an earthquake. I would never have known the difference in catfish activity, but I do not fish for a living. On the other hand, someone who fishes for them daily on a particular location such as the same large lake each day would be more discerning of catfish behavior. Japan’s fishermen of ancient times were obviously onto something. However, what does that have to do with a catfish large enough to swallow a man, especially in Japan which I would have envisioned as a place long ago as fished out of any huge fish. A place where if it swims, it can be eaten.
Jeremy then tied in the past stories of catfish coming out of the water to grab children. Yea,…….. right I thought. Well, here are some of the facts. As it turns out, Japan is home to several species of giant salamanders. You know, the slithery creatures we would catch as kids. Not just giant as bigger than the four inch wet lizard like animals I played with but gigantic as in four to six feet long, if not bigger. He actually caught a four footer. In ancient times if I had seen one of those coming out of the water at night I would have been scared too. I would actually be quite unsettled even today. Especially if I did not know what it was, and all I knew was that it came out of the water and had a head like a catfish. So the legend of catfish being able to swallow someone is loosely based on the reality that a child may have indeed been eaten by one of these he huge salamanders. It actually made for a very enlightening episode.
Even though his journey that week was to a populated area such as Japan, it is still his treks to remote destinations that draws my initial attention. Jeremy has had presentations on all the continents and of course what would a show like River Monsters be without the occasional visit to the Amazon. There is just something about the Amazon that intrigues, fascinates and scares us. And I think rightly so. I loved watching one episode where he seemed to be going up river more and more as the hour show progressed. As he got deeper into the jungle I anticipated his catch would eventually be even bigger, and perhaps nastier with intimidating teeth and jaws. As I said he always catches something worth looking at, but I’ll let you tune in to decide for yourself.
When I was deciding where to place treasures for South America on the game board of TreasureTrove I also wanted to place items of danger that one might encounter in their quest for lost fabled wealth. Who knows in a journey deep into the wilderness outback one might encounter an exotic animal, a creature of huge dimensions, or even a cryptid. I choose to place Amazon Beast in South America because I think it captures the imagination of all of us, especially a child. By the way Amazon Beast was on my game board long before I had ever heard of a show called River Monsters.