Monster exotic fish found in Hong Kong ponds

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Sep 07 2009 12:25 PM | Updated as of Sep 07 2009 08:25 PM

HONG KONG – Hong Kong has launched a search of ponds in public parks after at least 16 fish of an exotic species that can grow up to three metres (10 feet) long were discovered, apparently dumped by their owners when they grew too big.

A metre-long alligator gar was caught Friday in a park pond after reports that visitors feared for their safety, the South China Morning Post reported on Saturday.

The fierce-looking creatures get their name from their long snout, which resembles that of an alligator. While they are an aggressive and carnivorous species, they are not known to attacks humans.

Native to North America, alligator gars are commonly sold in Hong Kong for home aquariums when they are less than 30 centimetres (one foot) long but can grow to three metres and weigh up to 140 kilograms (300 pounds).

Another 15 of the fish had been found in ponds and lakes at other parks across Hong Kong, the Post said.

The Leisure and Cultural Services Department said in a statement late Friday the species had no conservation value and would affect the local ecology if released into the wild.

"Staff will clean the lakes regularly. Dangerous fishes will be removed when they are found," it said.

It said it would offer non-dangerous fish to animal welfare groups and charities if they were willing to take them.

The fish caught Friday died later that day.

The department warned that people who dumped unwanted pet fish in public parks risked a 2,000-dollar (260-US dollar) fine and two weeks in jail.