National Geographic –
Royal Manas National Park, Bhutan among anglers, the golden mahseer is one of the world’s most prized catches. Up to nine feet long and golden-hued with big scales, it has a reputation as one of the world’s hardest fighting fish. Author Rudyard Kipling once wrote that the tarpin, another valued game fish, is “as a herring” in comparison to the golden mahseer. But this mythical carp is also hunted for food and has lost significant portions of its habitat, decimating its numbers throughout its southern Asian range.
Except here, in the idyllic Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, where golden mahseer are thriving. Also known as the tiger of the river, the golden mahseer benefits—like other endangered species in the country, including actual tigers, white-bellied herons, and golden langur monkeys—from strong environmental protections and the religious reverence bestowed upon it.
“Bhutan has become the last stronghold of the golden mahseer,” says Dechen Dorji, who heads the World Wildlife Fund’s office in Thimphu, the Bhutanese capital. “It’s now up to us to protect this population and learn more about the species in order to ensure its future survival.”