Guideline River Monsters Season 2 Episode 4 : Congo Killer

Jeremy Wade travels to one of the few rivers left on earth that will still test a fisherman. The Congo, a river steeped in legends... and soaked in violence. One spirit in particular is said to lure fishermen from their boats to their death.

Chrysichthys cranchii

Maximum Length: Up to 5 feet
Maximum Weight: Up to 300 pounds

A True Goliath: Chrysichthys cranchii, which is called the "kamba" in the Congo, is a pretty big fellow. lists its maximum length as around 5 feet, with a top weight of nearly 300 pounds, and there's a semi-credible report of one that topped out a foot longer and 100 pounds heavier. It's one of 59 members of the family Claroteidae, a clan that also includes the giraffe catfish and the African big eye catfish, both of which have more charismatic monikers. Depending on what country you're in and what language you speak, the kamba is also known as the kanzema, kokuni, the manora or the tshirima.

The Mystery Fish: Sadly, there's not a wealth of research data available about the kamba catfish. But we can tell you that its skull and teeth were once used as sacred objects in initiation rituals by the Lega people of the southeastern Congo, for whom it traditionally was an important food source. Like other claroteids, the brown and black fish has a moderately elongated body and four pairs of barbels (barbels resemble a cat's whiskers), along with dorsal and pectoral fins with strong spines.

Jeremy Wade's Tips for Catching Kamba Catfish: "Just sitting in a wobbly dugout without falling out is a challenge in itself. Then you've got to stand up on the slippery deck and deploy the multi-hook lines. This requires the utmost concentration if you're not to get a hook stuck in your hand or foot."

Heterobranchus longifilis

Maximum Length: Nearly 5 feet
Maximum Weight: Up to 121 pounds

Southern Africa's Biggest: Heterobranchus longifilis, known in much of Africa as the vundu but also called the cur, lenda, certa, sampa and other names, is the biggest freshwater species in southern Africa. The vundu likes deep water and generally comes up at night to feed on fish, small vertebrates, and carcasses and offal that villagers throw in the water. But it is voracious enough to boldly forage around big sport fishing boats in Egypt's Lake Nasser. Its length makes it an impressive-looking catch for sport fishermen.

Long and Lean: The vundu catfish is long and muscular, but not a heavyweight like the kamba. (If you're a pro basketball fan, think of Pau Gasol or Yao Ming, as opposed to Shaquille O'Neal.) It has a long, broad head, a broadly rounded snout, and superolateral (high and to the side) eyes, with wide tooth plates and a well-developed suprabranchial organ for breathing air. Reportedly, it can survive out of water for long periods of time. Its body is olive brown on the dorsal surface, with a light-brown or off-white underbelly. The vundu can live for up to 12 years.

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