(Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

The arapaima measures three metres long and weighs a whopping 180kg, making it the largest freshwater fish not only in the Amazon River basin, but the whole of South America.

Sadly, these magnificent fish are rapidly vanishing from the Amazon.

According to NBC News, a recent study of fishing communities shows that the arapaima is already extinct in some parts of the Amazon basin, and its numbers are shrinking in other parts of the Amazon.

The study’s co-author, Donald Stewart, a professor at the State University of New York, stated that three out of the five known species of arapaima have not been observed in the wild in decades.

One reason for the fish’s rapid decline may be led by their added ability to breathe air using their primitive lung.

Even though this gift has allowed them to survive in their oxygen-poor habitat, it also makes them much easier to catch.

The silver lining: the arapaima is doing very well in communities where fishing rules are implemented to protect the species.

Hence continued conservation efforts may be the fish’s only hope in escaping extinction.

Read the full report on Live Science here.

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