The colour of Barney the dinosaur and with an appetite for hippo dandruff, this bush beauty is as weird and wonderful as Leonard Flemming reports. Just be careful of typos when you Google it and crocs when you look for the purple labeo.
The hippo, the Nile crocodile and the purple labeo (Labeo congoro), are truly African creatures. They share rivers and even sensual antics. Orgies of purple labeo ‘massaging’ hippos are a well-known phenomenon, leaving characteristic tracks as they nibble off algae and tasty bits of exfoliating skin. Although they seem to graze mostly on algae and periphyton, these are opportunistic fish that will have a go at any nutritious thing they come across. When I was a guide in Tanzania I watched them feed gregariously on a buffalo carcass in the Mnyera River. They grow big, like 10 lb big, and are not that scarce. It is not uncommon to catch one; in fact, I’ve seen more fly fisherman pose with purple labeo across Africa than I’ve heard about anglers being eaten by crocs.
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In Southern Africa they are present in the warmer parts of the Zambezi River and the Incomati system. They also occur further north in the Congo basin, Malagarasi River in Lake Tanganyika and in Tanzania.
Grab the rest of the info on this fish and more in The Mission Issue 23 below. It’s free, as always.