Some years ago, I encountered my first many-spined climbing perch at Jacana camp in the Okavango. The perch was out of the water and making its way along the edge of a road. I was completely taken aback to see a fish walking on land! Unfortunately for that particular perch it was also noticed by a hamerkop at the same time. Without a second’s hesitation, the hamerkop snatched up the fish and swallowed it … and the sighting came to an abrupt end.
The many-spined climbing perch has the bizarre ability to move about on dry land when it feels the need to find a new pool *or* lagoon to live in. It does this by twisting its body from side to side and walking along on spines that protrude from the bottom of its gill plate. It is also adapted to breathing out of water. The climbing perch is a predator in its own right, and eats other fish and insects.
This summer I was lucky enough to see another climbing perch while we were on an early morning drive out of Little Vumbura camp in the Delta. There had been a rainstorm during the night. Once again, the perch was moving slowly down the road, but this time there was no hamerkop nearby, so we were able to look at the fish a bit more attentively and to photograph it. It was fascinating to watch the fish move along the sand, with strong side-to side twists of its body. When it finally reached the water, it swam off very rapidly.
We saw a lot of larger creatures on the rest of our game drive that day, but none was quite as unusual as this ‘fish out of water’.
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