High-profile cryptids get a lot of attention. There are dozens of Bigfoot books, and the internet is full of Nessie info. But there are other beasts -- more obscure ones -- about which virtually nothing has been written. Try looking up the Lau and you'll see what I mean. I spent half an hour reading about this cryptid -- or trying to. What I learned can be summed up in a sentence: it's a thirty-foot Ugandan catfish.
A lesser crypto-blogger might give up in exasperation. But lack of information won't stop me! This post will be an exercise in creativity -- let’s see how far we can get with the facts we have. Personally, my hopes are high. Location, size and possible identity can tell us quite a lot – especially when it comes to cryptids.
Let’s start with some geography. The Lau is said to live in Uganda – in particular, in its larger lakes. This does, in fact, sound fairly plausible. Catfish are found on every continent except Australia, and they tend to live in fresh water. The largest species (including, one would imagine, the Lau) favor deep lakes and slow-flowing rivers. Uganda has plenty of these, and furthermore, its lakes would provide plenty of food for a monster fish. There are hundreds of catfish species, and their diets are highly variable. Some eat worms, some eat fish, some eat insects – and some even snatch waterbirds. The diverse fauna of Uganda’s lakes would be a catfish buffet.
A new catfish in Africa would not be very surprising. It’s the Lau’s size that makes it unusual. How realistic is a 30-foot fish? Not very, but not as unlikely as you’d think. The world’s biggest fish is the whale shark, which can grow to 42 feet at the largest. No catfish comes close to that size – but some of them can get very large. The Mekong catfish averages nine feet in length – and the Wels catfish can reach up to fourteen.
Africa’s longest catfish is not so large. It’s called the Vundu, and the biggest specimens are about five feet long. That’s a far cry from thirty. Still, it's not too unreasonable to imagine a bigger species out there. Large catfish dwell in the deeper parts of lakes -- they might not be easily accessible to anglers. And the Lau's size may also be exaggerated. Catfish are very strong; some have been known to pull humans underwater. This often leads to an overestimation of their size. The thirty-foot estimate is hard to believe, but a giant Ugandan catfish is certainly posisble.
Read more about catfish (you're not gonna find much about the Lau):
Image (of Jeremy Wade from "River Monsters" with a Wels catfish) from http://img.poptower.com/pic-9106/jeremy-wade.jpg?d=600