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Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919). Through the Brazilian Wilderness. 1914.

Page 42

what Sir Harry Johnston calls the really material devil, the devil of evil wild nature in the tropics, has been waged with marked success only during the last two decades. The men, in the United States, in England, France, Germany, Italy—the men like Doctor Cruz in Rio Janeiro and Doctor Vital Brazil in Sao Paulo—who work experimentally within and without the laboratory in their warfare against the disease and death bearing insects and microbes, are the true leaders in the fight to make the tropics the home of civilized man.
  Late on the evening of the second day of our trip, just before midnight, we reached Concepcion. On this day, when we stopped for wood or to get provisions—at picturesque places, where the women from rough mud and thatched cabins were washing clothes in the river, or where ragged horsemen stood gazing at us from the bank, or where dark, well-dressed ranchmen stood in front of red-roofed houses—we caught many fish. They belonged to one of the most formidable genera of fish in the world, the piranha or cannibal fish, the fish that eats men when it can get the chance. Farther north there are species of small piranha that go in schools. At this point on the Paraguay the piranha do not seem to go in regular schools, but they swarm in all the waters and attain a length of eighteen inches or over. They are the most ferocious fish in the world. Even the most formidable fish, the sharks or the barracudas, usually attack things smaller than themselves. But the piranhas habitually attack things much larger than themselves. They will snap a finger off a hand incautiously trailed in the water; they mutilate swimmers—