River Monsters : Season 5 – Episode 1 “Face Ripper”

The time has finally come for River Monsters : Season 5. In the premiere episode Jeremy Wade will travel to the rivers of Bolivia to search for a river monster he has dubbed “The Face Ripper”. What is this monster you ask? Well check out the episode recap below to find out.

The episode begins with Jeremy Wade telling the tale of a man who was killed swimming across a South American river only a year ago. The man began to struggle for a moment and minutes later was dead, the culprit only removed the mans face, nothing more. It was a gruesome tale to say the least. The death happened on the Rio Yata river in Bolivia. He had to fly to Brazil then drive on perilous roads in order to get to the river. As he explains it is a poor and crime ridden area, not a safe place to say the least. He asks locals questions about the Face Ripper tale but no one is of any help thus far.

Jeremy then arrives at the Rio Yata and was able to find only one boat owner willing to drive him down the river. He explains that scientists have not explored this river before, so he could potentially find something entirely new. He quickly catches his first couple fish, but neither are the monster he is after. A freshwater ray was the first fish caught followed by a flat whiskered catfish. He explains the catfish could however be on the menu of the monster he is after.

stingray barb

Pictured – The Stingray barb on the Freshwater Stingray

He sets up camp for the night on a river bank, it has obvious Caiman tracks which isn’t something that will help you get a good nights sleep. Luckily he has no issue and is off the next day for more, quickly running into a local man fishing on the river bank. He asks the man if he has heard of any killer fish. The man explains he has not heard of the incident Jeremy is aware of but mentions another death caused by a river monster, possibly the same one Jeremy is searching for. It was a little boy who was pulling in a line, he was drug into the water while attempting to pull the fish in. It was later pulled in and they claim the boy was discovered in the fishes stomach. After the man draws a fish in the sand, Jeremy concludes it was probably a Piraiba catfish.

After more unsuccessful fishing Jeremy runs into some more men on the river who know about the face ripper incident. They claim the only thing left on the victims face was bone, everything else was gone. Jeremy gets back to fishing and catches a Red bellied Piranha, a small one but a pack of them could certainly do some damage. He states they probably are not the culprit, citing his experiments in the past where he swam with them.

He finds a local village where a man gives him the victims name, Oscar. He also tells Jeremy where to find the location of the attack, he quickly heads to that village. He finds there is very little in terms of life at the village. He finds a few people who have heard of the attack but none were there when it happened. He is then able to locate the village where the victims mother lives, she will not talk about the death though. He then speaks with a local journalist who reported on the death but that leads him to more dead ends. The reporter explains the death was very suspicious and could have perhaps been a murder.

He decides to continue searching for answers but that is quickly halted when he discovers the entire country is under a Military curfew. He is told to go back inside or he will be arrested, it is quite strange but he has to follow orders. The next day he is able to find a doctor who has a photo of Oscar’s face. The doctor says there was no sign of foul play and says the death was probably caused by blood loss. He claims the Piranha was the killer based on the victims wounds. Jeremy gets back to the river to search for these killers.

He begins fishing at an unfinished dam, where he notices thousands of tiny fish attempting to swim up the river. He catches a relative of the Piranha he calls the Vampire fish. He then catches another small Red bellied Piranha which causes him quite the issue, it struggles and causes him to impale his thumb with his treble hook. I have done this myself, it is not pleasant and in my case required a trip to the hospital to remove it. He simply yanked it out with pliers as he was no where near a hospital. He caught another Piranha, this time it was a good sized Black Piranha. He says this probably isn’t his killer though as they are known to be solitary fish. He catches Red Bellies one after the other but is obviously much more careful removing them from his hook.


Pictured – Black Piranha Teeth 

He then travels to Suriname, a small country which he says is a melting pot of cultures. He says there are reports of more attacks here as well. He speaks to villagers where numerous people show signs of bites, all of which they claim came from Piranhas. As in a previous episode he is given an amulet, it is said to protect him from harm. They call the amulet a buoy (I am not sure if this is the correct spelling) and it takes 7 days for them to make it. The local people say the amulet will protect him from danger, it is placed on his arm and doused in alcohol to complete the ritual.

Jeremy is back to fishing but quickly runs into a snag. The fish are biting right through his wire leader, it happens multiple times as well. This is a sign of something serious in the water. As he explains it is 50 pound braided wire, something a fish should not be able to bite though. He finally does catch a fish but the result is amazing, it is almost entirely eaten by the time he reels it in. You can see a screen shot below of the damage, a true monster must be down there.


The action suddenly comes to a halt after that though, which is quite odd. He then travels to a man made lake called Brokopondo in hopes of finding the monster. The water is clear, so he tries dropping some chicken skin the the water to watch the frenzy. It is gone in moments. The fish are stripping the meat off the line instantly. He just cannot see them as they move to fast. He then decides to try a whole chicken in an attempt to get a better look at the fish. After watching, it is the Black Piranha. He says this might be the first time this behavior has ever been caught on camera. The Black Piranha was said to be a timid and solitary fish, but this result shows the exact opposite. Jeremy then heads back to the Rio Yata river in Bolivia.

After arriving back at the Rio Yata, Jeremy is finally able to locate the man who was there during the attack that killed Oscar. He says Oscar began swimming normally at first but shortly after began struggling before going under. He tied a rope around his waist and dove into the water searching for Oscar. It took him 4 tries to find Oscar on the bottom of the river and when he did he was also bit by something. He has the scars to prove it as well. He says it was the Red bellied Piranha that attacked him.

He is told of another village where more Piranha attacks have occurred. After arriving he is told of a Horse that was killed by Piranhas while trying to walk in a river. He comes to the conclusion that this river must be home to a more aggressive type of Piranha. They may be the same exact species but in a certain environment could act much different. He is told of a fish that came about roughly 20 years ago that may be the cause for the killer behavior in the Red bellied Piranha. He travels to a lake in hopes of catching this fish. He catches a Peacock Bass, but this isn’t the fish he is after. The locals he is fishing with explain that he is after something big.

He is back at it the next day, trying a method used by the locals called snagging. They drag a large home made treble hook through the water, hoping to snag this invasive monster. He is not able to snag one but the man he is fishing with does but it gets away. He was able to retrieve a single scale from the fish, Jeremy identifies it as an Arapaima gigas scale. He cannot believe it, the Arapaima is not supposed to be here. So this could explain the change in behavior of the Piranha. They are forced to be more more aggressive in order to compete with the monster Arapaima for food.


Pictured – Red Bellied Piranha

Jeremy is now determined to catch an Arapaima, which he does during his last night fishing. They also pull in quite a few from the line left out by the locals. This makes it quite clear the Arapaima are here and breeding. Jeremy believes this is what caused the Piranha to turn into the monster dubbed “The Face Ripper”.


Pictured – Arapaima gigas 

Check out River Monsters, Sunday night on Animal Planet.

Update – We’ve added a video clip from this episode, click here for that post.


  • Liam McGrath says:

    I really liked this episode, definitely one of the better ones in my opinion. There was development, shock, and discovery all throughout the entire two hours, and I was really feeling the “mystery” element of the show more than ever. But admittedly, I was sort of disappointed that Jeremy didn’t end up hauling a huge, 200lbs+ Arapaima out of that lake in the end. They nearly even hooked a supposed 300 pounder while hand fishing too. Ah well, I just hope that the nine-foot Chernobyl Wels Catfish that was hyped up in the preview of the next episode doesn’t end up being the dinky 2 footer that was shown on the trailer and press kit. I’ll keep my fingers crossed. Never mind sizes though, this whole creepy mysterious theme is definitely growing on me. Now, I’m anticipating the next episode more than ever.

    • TankTerrors says:

      I couldn’t have said it better myself. I really enjoyed the first episode too. It was awesome. I like that they showed quite a few different fish even if they didn’t really have much to do with the episode. Those Black Piranha are vicious too, some serious predators.

  • Daniel says:

    Esse cara disse no programa que o Pirarucu (arapaima) não é nativo desse rio:-, o que é um grande engano, pois o rio é afluente do rio mamoré, que por sua vez é afluente do rio madeira, que é afluente do rio amazonas, habitat do grande Pirarucu. Esse cara foi atacado por grandes piranhas vermelhas.

    • TankTerrors says:

      English – This guy said on the show that the arapaima (Arapaima) is not native to this river: – which is a big mistake because the river is a tributary of the Mamore River, which in turn is a tributary of the Madeira River, which is tributary to the amazon river, habitat large arapaima. this guy was attacked by large red piranhas.

      thanks for the comment.

  • Gordon Brown says:

    I haven’t seen any significant official evidence to support Wade’s claim….

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