A flesh-eating piranha normally found in the Amazon river has been found at a sewage works after someone flushed it down their toilet.
The South American river predator, which hunts in packs and can easily rip flesh to shreds in a matter of seconds, was found by a member of staff at the Southern Water waste treatment works in Chichester.
The water utility company tweeted to say that the deadly predator had been found, and asked owners of exotic pets not to release them into the wild or flush them down the toilet.
They said: ‘Be kind to pets and the environment – never release them or allow them to escape into the wild.’
Southern Water spokeswoman Nicola Crichton said: ‘Obviously someone who owns exotic animals must have flushed it down the toilet, I don’t think it managed to migrate all this way.
‘People will flush anything down there toilets, we once found a bed sheet at the waterworks, and find all sorts of strange things.’
Southern Water communications officer Simon Fluendy said: ‘Our campaigns normally focus on stopping people flushing plastic-based materials such as wet wipes, sanitary products, condoms and nappies down the toilet.
‘There’s only the three Ps which should go down the loo - pee, poo and paper. Piranhas are not one of them.
‘We like to make it clear, we do not believe that there is any risk of shoals of piranhas swimming around our sewers - this would be highly unusual.
‘I suppose we should be relieved it’s not the crocodile which an old urban legend said lived in the New York sewers.
‘We would like to reassure our 4.6 million customers that it is safe to use their toilets as normal.’
Indigenous to the Amazonian basin, the piranha is a freshwater fish which can range in size from 5in to 20in depending on the species.
They have been characterised in films and the media as extremely predatory due to their powerful jaws and feeding frenzies but in fact are omnivorous and pose a relatively low threat to humans.